Sunday, December 25, 2011

Book Review: "The Gentlemen's Hour" by Don Winslow

There's always an intrinsic coolness in Don Winslow's novels, whether he's writing his series with PI Neal Carey, chronicling the battles between drug cartels, or following a group of surfing friends, as he does in his terrific book, The Gentlemen's Hour. It's a combination of his vividly drawn characters and their often quirky-yet-authentic dialogue, as well as his ability to make you feel you're watching the action unfold in front of you.

The Gentlemen's Hour is a follow-up to his 2009 novel, The Dawn Patrol, both of which follow a group of surfers on San Diego's Pacific Beach, which has been rocked by the violent murder of local legend Kelly Kuhio. The case seems open-and-shut: the killer, a wealthy member of a surfing gang, has confessed, and a number of witnesses say they saw him throw the fatal punch. Yet when PI Boone Daniels is asked to investigate the crime to determine whether the charge of first-degree murder should stick, in addition to alienating his long-time friends and the Pacific Beach community, he finds a lot of things to prove the incident wasn't as cut and dried as it appeared. And that's only one of his cases, as he also is asked by a friend to determine if his wife is having an affair. Couple that chaos with a great deal of self-discovery, and it's not all "hang loose" for Boone Daniels.

I love the way Don Winslow writes, and every character in Boone's group is much more complex than they appear initially. Winslow takes the surfer stereotype and turns it on its ear—sure, these characters are obsessed with finding the perfect wave (or any wave at all) and may fall into surfer speak, but they are much smarter and profound than you think. This is a great book, packed with action and character exposition, although at times it gets a little bogged down in background detail. Winslow did introduce a psychotic villain, who I feared was going to derail the entire book, but luckily he makes only a brief (yet annoying) appearance. All in all, I enjoyed this tremendously, as I have enjoyed nearly every one of Winslow's other books. I hope he's hard at work writing the next one!

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