Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Devil's Feathers


Devil’s Feathers by David Chacko
(Foremost Press / 0-981-84186-4 / 978-0-981-84186-1 / December 2008 / 268 pages / $14.97 / Amazon $13.47)
Reviewed by Jack Dixon for PODBRAM

Onur Levent has just begun his annual holiday on the Turkish Aegean coast. Holiday, though, means something different to Levent than it means to most people. Although he genuinely tries to leave his work behind, it follows him like a bloodhound. His holiday in the sunny resort town of Bodrum is interrupted by a phone call, and Levent is handed the task of solving the murder of a man with a murky background, dubious business acumen, and apparent connections deep inside the Turkish shadow government.

A nameless man, or rather one with perhaps too many names, has been burned alive in his car in the bustling coastal resort town. Levent must solve the puzzle of who torched the victim and why, and resist the urge to investigate the victim’s own colorful criminal background. Levent is as intrigued by the victim as he is by the hunt for his killer, but he forces himself to focus on the hunt. Still, he finds himself tugging at threads in spite of himself, even though he knows they will lead him to places he should not go.

Meanwhile, the investigation draws Levent away from the beaches, the dinner parties, and the nightlife that had been packed into his holiday plans. One suspects, however, upon getting to know Levent, that he secretly prefers the investigation to the beaches and the parties.

Well-paced dialog, clear and thorough descriptions, and believable dramatic scenes keep the story flowing nicely. The plot develops well, with a fine balance of action and mystery.

The intrigue and the intricacies of Detective Levent’s investigation held my attention in spite of distractions that periodically kept me away from this solidly written and finely edited book. I returned to the story easily after short periods away, as my interest held the details fresh in my mind. Fine books like this stay with you even when you’re forced to put them down for a time.

David Chacko writes with the ease of a polished storyteller. Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of frequent simile; I prefer that they be used sparingly. But Chacko turns similes like an expert potter turns fine art; I found myself looking forward to his creativity, and smiling when I wasn’t disappointed. Chacko’s style effectively conveys the aura and the mindset of the main character, a skilled veteran homicide investigator who holds his ideals loosely enough that he’s able to swim among personalities and situations that fall far short of them. This solid character’s ability to accept the underside of life without embracing it himself gives him a distinct edge in bringing his investigation to a successful, if harrowing close.

Devil's Feathers is a good mystery, with plenty of intrigue and well-drawn cultural flavor. I felt present in the Aegean resort town, immersed in the essence of Turkish culture and social mores, and absorbed by Levent’s dogged pursuit of elusive facts. A good writer takes the reader along for the ride; Chacko accomplished that admirably with this book. It’s the first of Chacko’s books I’ve had the pleasure to read, but it won’t be my last.


See Also: Al Past's Review of Echo Five
The Author's Website

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