Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When One Man Dies by, Dave White

“I've killed three men in my life. One the police know about, two that I've kept to myself.”

From the killer opening line, When One Man Dies is off to the races. Dave White’s first novel-length Jackson Donne adventure follows up on the already solid series of short stories he’s published over the past several years. White brings back some old familiar faces (Gerry Figuroa, Bill Martin) and introduces some new characters along the way.

New Jersey PI Jackson Donne is about to go back to college when his friend, the aging actor Gerry Figuroa (first seen in “More Sinned Against”) is killed in a hit-and-run. At the same time, he’s starting to investigate an adultery and divorce case: supposedly his last before returning to school. As with any good noir, the two seemly distinct cases are actually related. I’m not going to say much about the plot except that it follows the framework of the genre while putting a new twist on it.

One of the great things about White’s writing is how he has imbued Donne with a big heart. That’s one of the keys to the success of the Donne stories. We care about Donne and Donne cares about his clients. A lot of the predecessors in the genre are the typical white knight who comes in and does the right thing, but sometimes it feels like they’re doing it because it is “the right thing” and not because they actually care about their clients. And while lots of modern authors inflict physical punishment on their characters, White inflicts a lot of emotional punishment. Just when we think Donne can’t take any more, White rips Donne’s heart clear out of his chest and stomps on it with a size 13 boot covered in dog crap. (You can probably tell the scene I’m talking about if you’ve read the book).

It is not necessary to read the Jackson Donne short stories first, but it helps fill in a lot of back story that gives the book an added punch.

I can’t recommend When One Man Dies strongly enough.

Go out and buy your copy today.


Dave White said...

Thanks, man. I do have size 13 shoes!

StephenD said...

Ha. I hope to have a review of your second book up next week.