Matt Abraham told us about his internet troll here and about how being a waiter prepared him to be a new father here. I’m pleased to report that his new book, Dane Curse, has as much humor and excitement as we’ve come to expect of Matt the writer—and not nearly as many diaper changes as Matt the father…
Sometimes even the unjust deserve a little justice
If you lose a black cape, and can’t go to the cops, then you come to me because that’s what I do. I’ve been in the game for years. I know all the curves and all the angles, and if it gets rough then so be it, I got plenty strength, I’m double tough, and I never quit. And if need be I’ll pull my artillery to get you some answers, because I don’t care about the mistakes you’ve made or how you chose to live your life, sometimes even the unjust deserve a little justice.
At least that’s how it was before a mysterious murder threatens to plunge Gold Coast City into a super powered war unless I find the killer in five days’ time. But getting to the truth won’t be so easy. I’ll have to face ruthless black capes with secrets to hide, a powerful government agency bent on national expansion, and even teams of white caped heroes whose intentions are less than pure.
No easy task for a small time PI, so I’ll need every bit of my strength and guts if I’m going to find the killer, save my city, and maybe even get some justice for the greatest hero the world has ever known.
- Book Title: Dane Curse
- Author: Matt Abraham
- Genre: Detective/Superhero Thriller
- Length: 288 pages
- Release Date: February 10, 2015 (Amazon Digital Publishing)
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My Review: 5 stars out of 5
Okay, I admit it. I’m a sucker for the tropes. When an author picks them perfectly and executes them flawlessly? I’m intrigued. But when the author does all that and then subverts them completely? They own me. A perfect example is Gold Coast City, the world Matt Abraham builds in Dane Curse.
First he faithfully recreates the gritty noir world of the private detective as codified by characters like Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe or Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, with the obligatory elements:
- Femme fatale: we all know about her—she’s called a “dame” and she has “gams” that defy nature. “It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.”–Raymond Chandler, Farewell My Lovely. Or, as author Matt Abraham describes her—“She was wearing a long, tight black dress that pushed her fun parts up like a vanilla soufflé, and it had a slit on the side high enough to let her thigh peek through to make a few promises it didn’t intend to keep. Below all that, on her two tiny feet, she had a pair of black heels so high the person who made them must’ve needed building permits, and the way she moved in all of it would make a jungle cat jealous.”
- MacGuffin: An object whose sole purpose is to move the story along, this could be anything—Jason’s Golden Fleece, the LOTR rings, Indiana Jones’ Arc of the Covenant, and especially hard-boiled detective Marlow’s Maltese falcon statue. In Dane Curse, the MacGuffin is a legendary superhero, whose mysterious disappearance unnerves the established forces on either side of the law.
- Girl Friday: For most hard-boiled detectives, an assistant is out of the question. A lucky few like Maltese Falcon’s Sam Spade, though, do have the “office wife” to shelter, mother, and cater to their every whim. Dane Curse is most fortunate of all to have The Widow, another former “black cape” whose four arms make her particularly efficient.
- Friendly villain: As a former “dark cape” himself, Dane is a lot more comfortable with the ones who follow a darker path. “See, behind their masks and hoods and threatening names, behind the powers and pulse cannons, black capes are people like everyone else. And like everyone else they have children and spouses and parents and friends who love them a whole lot, and miss them just as much when they meet the big goodbye. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not the best people in the world, but that doesn’t mean each one deserves the death penalty.”
- Set up to take the fall: Dane’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, just one of the toughest. He knows others are playing the tune he’s dancing to. But there’s a code he has to live by. “I holstered the pistol, then tightened my tie. I never wore the white cape, never even thought about it, but if Gold Coast was to survive then someone had to stop Lynx. What the city needed was a hero. But all they had was me.”
Bogart tries to explain The Code in The Maltese Falcon
But side-by-side with the gritty private detective tropes, author Matt Abraham mixes another trope—the superhero. Only it’s not the trope-definers like Superman that he invokes. Instead is the anti-hero, the bitter self-hatred of Sin City’s Marv or the dark inner conflict of Batman.
Abraham also invokes the snarky, irreverent humor of the superhero trope. For example:
“Ok, so Pinnacle is a sexy hero, there’s no denying it. But the thing is he’s not just sexy, he’s thee sexy. Nobody can compare, he’s the total package; the body, the face, the attitude, the intellect, the sense of right and wrong… all wrapped up in that white bread Americana that gets a girl purring. Seriously, every vibrator I own is named Pinnacle.”
“I named my pistols.”
“Not the same thing.”
Overall, with its dazzling pace, terrific fight scenes, and snarky humor, Dane Curse is a fast, fun read. But I can’t help thinking that what it really wants to be is a graphic novel. I can just picture the dark panels, and retro Pow! Bam! Bang!” in the fight scenes. Characters are not complex, and they don’t so much develop as entertainingly flesh out familiar tropes. I loved the gritty genre homage and mix, the jokes, and the anti-hero Dane Curse. In addition, there are terrific support characters with interesting skills and occasionally painful names (Al Mighty, the—you guessed it—super strong superhero). Five stars, of course, and well-done!
**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**