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Dying Good    by Allan Cole order for
Dying Good
by Allan Cole
Order:  USA  Can
PublishAmerica, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Although Allan Cole has previously written mysteries for television and movies, Dying Good is his first mystery in book format. Set in Florida's Boca Raton, it opens on a thirteen-year old shrimper's daughter, Marie, paddling her dugout with every ounce of energy she can muster, as she attempts to escape from pursuers, Tampa and Bonita.

This pair is involved in many dubious money-making capers. We see them luring children onto an 'Angel Clinic' bus, promoting free medical and dental care from the State of Florida Board of Health. Parents, seduced by a $10 voucher for store goods, sign-up their kids for a ride to the Clinic. Though young Leslie lacks the required permission slip, the duo allow her to board anyway. We learn that the Angel Clinic is a scam, that has missed being indicted 'by a whisker of a bribed assistant DA's moustache'. Upon arrival at the Clinic, Bonita is handed a twenty-dollar bill for each child stepping off the bus. But there are different plans for little Leslie, who is transported by boat to Senor Angel Navarro, and added to a roomful of fifty sedated children to be delivered to Honduras. When clinic bus driver William returns the other children to their pickup point, Leslie is missing.

The child's grandmother Stormy, with 'a hard-mouth for enemies and a soft heart for those close to her', is a force to be reckoned with. Stormy is housekeeper for Addison Mizner Flagler Titus Broward MacGregor (known as 'Mac'). After many years as a criminal agent, witnessing mass murders and torture, and bringing his share of perps to justice, Mac has settled for a less stressful life on the beach of Boca Raton. Defender of the wronged, Mac leads the search for young Leslie. The hunt sends him into a maelstrom of danger, where Mac encounters an old nemesis. The unscrupulous Senor Navarro (an exiled dictator) holds positions on company boards and the U.S. Trade Commission. Navarro says of Max, 'MacGregor's like that French detective in 'Les Miserables'. A true Javert. Once he gets his teeth into you he never lets go.'

Allan Cole, a reader's writer, delivers a fresh, suspenseful mystery, with unique phrasing, colorful characterizations, masterly dialog, and chilling portrayal of evil deeds. Each chapter's high momentum action scenes add to the powerful, loathsome plot - which as Mac says is 'so much tougher with kids' involved. And, despite their nefarious deeds, the reader can't help but take a liking to the loving wrong-doers, 'honey pie' and 'sweetie pie' (Bonita and Tampa) with their oft humorous antics. Mac's support cast also deserves recognition -- Stormy, astute heroine Lupe Martinez, police officer Lieutenant Snow, Jack Talbot, and lake-dweller 'Mad' Albert with his parrot Marsha. I thoroughly enjoyed Dying Good and look forward to Allan Cole's second suspense novel, Drowned Hopes, in Spring 2005.

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