When homeless former Marine Billy Wayne Dobson dies in Lalla Bains’ arms in an alley next to Kim’s Chinese Restaurant, the only clue to who stabbed him in the heart with a pair of scissors is a cryptic last utterance from Billy Wayne: “The more there is the less you see.” As Billy Wayne dies, Lalla senses something in the alley with her. And Mr. Kim, trying to comfort Lalla with a cup of tea, tells her she is “too close to ghost.”
A homeless former crop dusting pilot whom Lalla fired offers the information that the killer is a cop, but won’t give up the name—if he actually knows it—before he is killed by a semi when he runs into the street trying to get away from Lalla, who is chasing him to get him to give up the name.
With the help of a newspaper reporter, Del Potts, and a TV reporter, Jan Bidwell, Lalla solves the murder. In the process: Del is almost killed when he is locked in the trunk of Lalla’s vintage red Cadillac, Lalla and her father are threatened, Lalla has a scary incident in a crop duster, Mr. Kim’s daughter is murdered, and several interesting relationships and an imposter are revealed.
The book is filled with many interesting characters, with Eula Mae Bains arguably the most interesting. Named after her great-aunt, she is known to everyone except Detective Gayle Rodney as Lalla—a name bequeathed to her by her dead brother. To Detective Gayle Rodney she is “Miz Eula Mae Bains”—usually uttered scornfully.
Up until four years ago Lalla was a runway model in New York City. Then her widowed father, who needed a triple bypass and figured the end was near, asked her to help out for a “few days” in getting his effects in order. So Lalla left New York, a faltering modeling career and a bad divorce from a Puerto Rican baseball player with a wandering eye, and returned to Modesto, California. Her father now seems to be on the mend and Lalla has stayed to help with the family crop dusting business.
Many of the characters in this story are former classmates of Lalla’s, including her “sweetie” Caleb Stone, the Sheriff and former military MP. He is probably the only stable character in her life right now. In not any particular order, rounding out the interesting characters, are: sleazy detective Gayle Rodney; conniving reporter Del Potts; loose and flirty TV reporter Jan Bidwell; sympathetic diner operator Roxanne; and attractive, new, and young, police officer Pippa Roulette—not who we originally think she is; and homeless former Marine—and dead, Billy Wayne Dobson. There are other, lesser characters that show up at times to move the story along and make it interesting.
The story progresses very nicely and the author does a good job of bringing the reader up to speed on characters that have appeared in previous Lalla Bains books. It took me no time at all to be familiar with the relationships among Lalla, Det. Rodney and Sheriff Stone.
While the reader may have suspicions of who is responsible for the murder of Billy Wayne, the author keeps us guessing with enough red herrings to obscure the truth until late in the book.
With clear exposition and descriptions as well as an intriguing tale, the author kept me interested throughout. I will be reading more by this author.
Title: A Dead Red Heart
Author: R.P. Dahlke
Publication: Dead Bear Publishing; April 12, 2011
Price: $2.99 (Kindle), $11.65 (paperback)
Author’s Website: http://rpdahlke.com/