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A Safe Place for Dying    by Jack Fredrickson order for
Safe Place for Dying
by Jack Fredrickson
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Vlodek Elstrom, otherwise known simply as Dek, lived for a while in the exclusive gated community of Crystal Waters, one of the nicest, upscale little neighborhoods in Chicago's suburbs. That was when he was married, even if briefly, to the fabulously wealthy Amanda, the woman who still haunts his everyday life.

Now Dek lives in his late grandfather's unfinished 'dream home' in the rundown section of nearby Rivertown. The roof leaks, there is no hot water, Dek has virtually no furniture, and the zoning department says that no one is allowed to live in the four story turret of an uncompleted castle, the strangest building in all of Rivertown. Adding insult to injury, Dek's career as an investigator and information services specialist is in a freefall nosedive. Other than those few problems, Dek's life is nearly perfect.

So, when the Crystal Waters Board of Homeowners offers to pay him $3000 to check out an enigmatic document, Dek can hardly refuse the opportunity. However, there is a really nasty fly in the ointment. The hand-printed letter that the Board of Homeowners received demanded payment of $50,000; then a home worth $3 million blew up. Obviously, the folks at Crystal Waters have a big problem. Someone is extorting money from them - but, of course, they have plenty of money, so that doesn't phase them very much - and that same someone is now intent upon blowing things up - and that does bother them because their multimillion-dollar homes will be worthless in the real estate market if word gets out that a nutcase is blowing up their houses.

Dek's job, therefore, is presumably simple. Find out where the letter came from, identify the culprit, and let the Board of Homeowners - in their own way - put an end to all of the nonsense. But nothing is ever simple for Dek. That is evident to anyone who takes a look at his eight-month marriage, his ignominious departure from the marital home, his floundering career, his uninhabitable home, and his bank account which is drawing its last breath. Now, more bombs go off in Crystal Waters, more notes demanding even more money have shown up, people are increasingly endangered, and it is becoming obvious that someone is intent upon destroying everything and everyone in the prestigious gated community that Dek has not-so-affectionately called Gatesville.

Then, when the federal officials get involved in the investigation, Dek - because of his past connections with his beloved Gatesville - becomes a prime suspect in the chaos that has suddenly morphed into murder. Now he really has problems! And those problems may completely ruin the two things he really wants the most out of life: the chance to earn some much needed money, and the chance to reconnect with his ex-wife Amanda.

And so it goes. A Safe Place for Dying is a 'sly and clever caper' that will entertain and amuse readers. Nicely garnished with sardonic humor, author Jack Fredrickson's adroit tale of greed, selfishness, desperation, and revenge is a top-notch entry into the fictional arena of murder-and-mayhem. As the first in a promised series of hard-boiled adventures featuring this engaging new amateur sleuth, A Safe Place for Dying is an impressive opening act.

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