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Dynamite Road

Andrew Klavan

Forge/Tom Doherty Associates, LLC

US Hardcover First

ISBN: 0-765-30785-5

Publication Date: November, 2003

315 Pages; $25.95

Date Reviewed: December 1, 2003

Reviewed by: Terry D'Auray © 2003




'Dynamite Road' reads like a Hollywood action movie between hard covers, with a suspenseful, fast paced plot and characters custom made for "A-list" actors. Not too surprising, since Andrew Klavan's the successful author of two previous books-into-movies - 'True Crime' and 'Don't Say a Word'.

In 'Dynamite Road', the protagonists, Weiss and Bishop, run a detective agency in San Francisco and have been hired by a nearby airport owner to investigate suspected criminal activities in a small airport in Northern California. Weiss stays in San Francisco to dig up information while Bishop goes undercover as a pilot at the airport.

Cut to Bishop's entrance, riding into town on his Harley, steely-eyed, tough, fearless and on a mission. He meets the airport operator/client, the renegade pilot Chris Wannamaker, who drinks too much, talks too much, and beats his wife, Kathleen, the airport manager. Within days, Bishop is bedding Kathleen and baiting her husband to gain entrée into the top-secret plan of local crime lord Hirschorn. Bishop is a bed and bolt kind of tough guy, too much the loner to ever connect with the women he seems to draw like a magnet. Clint Eastwood made a fortune playing these guys, albeit with a horse, not a Harley.

Back in SF, Weiss works on the background. Pudgy, slightly schlumpy ex-cop Weiss is a cerebral investigator with the unique ability to inhabit the criminal mind. Think Gene Hackman being introspective, in touch with the dark side. Worshipping women while bedding hookers, Weiss contemplates, cogitates, and thinks his way through the investigation of the death of yet another crime lord, attended by his attorney, gardener, and caretaker, all now dead by suicide or murder. Most compelling is the caretaker, a redheaded siren whose exquisite beauty lures all in her wake and causes men to do dangerous things. It's ideal for Nicole Kidman, if the screen-time could be beefed up a bit. Weiss uncovers the common link between crime lords dead and alive - a nefarious psychopathic criminal known as Shadowman - a man so brilliant, heartless and ruthless that even powerful crime lords quake in fear of him. A character custom-made for William DeFoe.

Bishop and Weiss' investigations unite in a finale that screams for Jerry Bruckenheimer - a big-budget showstopper that's all guns, fighter planes, explosions, sirens, chaos and confusion. It's an ambiguous, action-movie finale; the good guys could have won if they'd only been willing to believe the truth.

Plot is the deal in this book - it's a fast-paced weaving of multi-threaded segments that all gel in the end. There's the mandatory gross-out scene, when Shadowman pops out the eyeball of a guard he's just killed because he'll need it later to pass the retina scan. I guess retina scans care only about the retina, not that it's attached to anything. Despite enough coincidences and light-bulb inspirations to make the reader believe in a higher power, and despite prose that stumbles and clunks occasionally, the story is a lively, clever page-turner. Weiss and Bishop, though hackneyed, are sufficiently well developed to sustain interest and there are enough petty thugs with guns and knives to give character actors a chance at strong supporting roles.

Blending character, plot and enough sex to keep things spicy, Klavan has written an action movie with a built-in moneymaking sequel. You can be sure that Weiss and Bishop will be back.