A homicidal maniac frames a wealthy beach bum for murder in retribution for an old sin in this debut novel.
Likable surfer Danny Teakwell won $5 million in the lottery, allowing him to pursue an aimless, self-destructive lifestyle. It’s appropriate for a guy who’s never gotten over youthful tragedies. In high school, for example, he and his friends, Troy Stoddelmeyer and John Mangrum, were involved in a shameful incident that cost him his relationship with the love of his life, Sari Hunter. But a reunion with her is at hand, giving him hope that he can get a second chance. Unfortunately, an insane killer, Jaxon Kempler, also is planning to attend; he seeks revenge for what Teakwell and his friends did 20 years ago, through a combination of murder and frame-ups. Box does a great job with Teakwell’s back story, plausibly developing his sweet relationship with Hunter and leaving readers wanting to find out what ruined their love. The unexpected answer makes Teakwell seem sympathetic and flawed. Kempler is also very well-drawn, as the author uses darkly comic, third-person narration to enter his very disturbed mind; one early killing, for example, is “[j]ust something he had to do, like eating pancakes on days of the month divisible by three.” But as good as the characterization and gleeful malice are, they occasionally falter. One of Kempler’s acts, in particular, may be too gruesome for some readers. Also, Mangrum’s reasons for being involved are a stretch, as are Kempler’s motives. Although the cast of oddballs is wacky Floridian fun for the most part, a subplot about Teakwell’s attorney’s problems seems unnecessary, and it devolves into a hokey bit of comic violence. However, these flaws shouldn’t prevent audiences from enjoying this beach read.
An engaging thriller with plenty of humor, good characterization, and a memorable villain, even if each has moments of weakness.