One of the more prolific expat writers is Dean Barrett with numerous books covering several genre, including fiction and non-fiction, poetry and children’s books. Whilst he may be a China specialist, dating back to when he was in the US Military, he has not let himself be restricted by that, though China influences are often experienced.
Pop Darrell’s Last Case (ISBN 978-0-9788888-4-8, Village East Books, 2014) is Barrett’s latest book, featuring Pop Darrell, a tough ex-cop who becomes involved in a mystery which was not of his making.
The opening chapter does have a China influence with the tale of two grave robbers, one of whom does not return home.
The next few chapters introduces separate themes, which do eventually relate to each other later in the book, the third chapter being Pop Darrell, the grizzled ex-cop and central figure in this book.
Barrett makes good use of the short chapter style of narrative, which keeps the action going and keeps the reader turning pages.
The action is placed in the present time with Google, Twitter and even Candy Crush – and no, I do not wish to play! There is even mention of the fallen-from-grace Chinese politician Bo Xi-lai, to really place the action in time and space.
It is not all heavy data, as there is also a thread of humor which runs through the book, with, for example, the description of a tug of war between a dog and a C cup brassiere producing giggles if not outright guffaws for any reader with a visual imagination.
The plot is that of a detective thriller, but author Barrett has also introduced some supernatural elements just to provide some more mystery and confusion in the mind of the reader. This is then much more to this novel than your average detective drama.
Dean Barrett has the ability to describe his characters in a thoroughly lifelike way. “Thin, wiry, nervous, jumpy, greasy mop of hair, sleeveless black jersey over slightly bloodied, long-sleeved white T-shirt, baggy wide-legged jeans, sleek black-and-red Air Jordan high-tops.” You cannot help but see this young lad in all his grunge glory!
But along with the street cred, Pop Darrell’s Last Case also brings the reader to high class S&M and B&D, feng-shui, martial arts weapons and other oriental items.
Bring on human trafficking and the drug trade in China white heroin. This book has it all, both real and imagined and conjured up.
The final chapters come one after another, after another, and after another, as men are split open with ancient swords and the great final battle for world supremacy is fought out in the storeroom of a Chinese restaurant.
Fiction mystery, or does it have a basis in fact. You, the reader decide.
B. 450 in Asia Books and Bookazine, or Amazon Kindle, makes it a cheap way to enjoy a weekend. I have found in the past that Barrett weaves a great yarn, and this book is up there with the best of them. A very professional work as one would expect from a Board Member of Mystery Writers of America.