Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book Review: "The Pain Scale" by Tyler Dilts

Tyler Dilts' debut crime novel, The King of Infinite Space really wowed me when I read it back in 2010, and in fact, it made my list of the best books I read that year. When I saw that he was getting ready to release the second book in his series featuring Long Beach police detectives Danny Beckett and Jen Tanaka, I hoped that the talent he showed previously would again be evident.

The good news is, The Pain Scale is just as good as its predecessor.

When the book opens, Detective Danny Beckett has just returned to the department from an extended medical leave following an injury inflicted by a criminal, an injury that nearly cost him one of his hands. His pain is nearly constant, and can only (barely) be controlled by Vicodin and/or vodka. But when he and Jen land a high-profile murder case, he hopes the adrenaline and the focus on something else will help distract him from his pain.

Sara Benton and her two young children were brutally murdered in what appears to be a home invasion. Sara was married to Bradley Benton III, the son of a prominent California congressman, who is being groomed to succeed his father. Every move that Danny and Jen and their colleagues make in investigating the case is being shadowed by the congressman's own hired guns, but that is unavoidable.

They have their suspicions about the case, but when evidence leads them in a different direction they're pleased to tie up some loose ends, but they know there must be more to these murders. What they discover is far more than they bargained for, and the actions they take leave them vulnerable physically, emotionally, and ethically. And all the while, Danny is struggling with managing and masking his pain, as well as his own emotional issues and the medical problems of a close friend.

Tyler Dilts knows how to tell a story. He hooked me from the beginning, both with Danny's struggles and the way the murder case unfolds. There's some great action and some terrific narrative, and I feel like Dilts really fleshed out his characters well. You think you know how you should feel about the suspects but when Danny and Jen aren't sure, you get drawn right in with them. And while the resolution of the case may not completely surprise you, the after-effects keep you reading.

While there's something to be said for occasionally reading a book heavy on action and light on character development and feasible plot, for me, a good crime novel combines both. And once again, Tyler Dilts has proven he's a writer worth being read, although I don't want to have to wait two more years for his next book!

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