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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Deadline by John Dunning

Deadline by John Dunning. New York: Pocket Books, 1981. ISBN: 0-671-00352-6

I was looking for more of Dunning's “Bookman” mysteries, but what I found on the shelf at my local library was this one instead. I'll have to put holds on the other “Bookman” novels, and wait for them to be delivered to my library location. But I wasn't disappointed by Deadline. No way! This is a great read from start to finish. It reads just as well as Dunning says it was written, in a single lightning-like spurt.

This is a mystery/thriller with a veteran newsroom reporter as the primary protagonist, examining a series of seemingly disconnected events, which eventually get all tied up together by one means or another. A girl, eight or nine years old, dies in a circus tent fire, but no one comes to claim her. Why? A young Amish woman travels to the big city and becomes, of all things, a Radio City Music Hall Rockette dancer. Throw in some violent sixties radical types long gone underground, and you have a recipe for a wild ride.

The scene where our reporter is writing up the story for his paper, and the FBI agent, an old nemesis, calls and tries to persuade him to keep the story on ice for a few days is an absolute classic, right up there with the best “gotcha” scenes from any John Grisham tale. Grisham being the master of almost too perfect set piece plotting.

But overall, there's no comparison. I'd rather read Dunning than Grisham any day. Highly recommended, especially for mystery/thriller fans of newspaper stories with great human interest angles.

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