Monday, April 11, 2016
Review of Worst Enemies by Dana King (2012)
Borrowing an idea from Patricia Highsmith, Tom and Marty, two strangers who meet in a strip club, are planning to kill each other’s wives. Under pressure from Marty, Tom goes first. While he succeeds in killing the unfortunate wife, he makes a mess of the murder. Local detective Ben ‘Doc’ Dougherty, a former MP and Penns River native, and Willie Grabek, a former Pittsburgh cop are assigned the case and soon have Tom in custody. Shortly after a second body is discovered in an abandoned house and a connection is made to the first murder. For a town that rarely sees one murder a year, two in the space of a few days causes consternation. With Tom protesting that he’s been framed, tricked into committing murder, and Grabek doing the minimal amount before retiring, Dougherty tries to unravel the pair of murders, aware that whatever has transpired is not yet over.
Worst Enemies is the first Penns River novel. I reviewed the second, the excellent Grind Joint, a while ago. Worst Enemies cleverly reworks Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, twisting the plot through ninety degrees to create a compelling tale of scheming, double cross and manipulation. King populates the story with a believable and engaging set of characters and his dialogue and social interactions are astutely and realistically penned, as are the police procedural elements. What I particularly liked was that the story rooted in everyday realism concerning family interactions, personal relationships, social welfare situations, organized crime, internal police politics, and dealing with the legal system, and there is a strong sense of place focused on a small town in decline near to Pittsburgh. The denouement was perhaps a little rushed, though it has a nice twist that jars against expectation. Overall, a very nicely written and plotted tale and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, Resurrection Mall.