Amazon says The Coconut Swindle, Matt Abraham’s prequel to his fantastic Dane Curse series, is 246 pages long. I don’t believe it. I raced through it in one sitting. Well, the sitting was enforced since I was on my third international flight in a month and I had exhausted British Airway’s pedestrian movie listings on the first trip. (Before the plane took off.) A very nice steward kept me supplied with coffee and bottled water, and my child-cancelling headphones cushioned random announcements of turbulence, seatbelts, and furious infants. Because—holy superhero!—as much as I loved the first book, this was even better.
‘Most of the bad guys in the real world don’t know that they are bad guys. You don’t get a flashing warning sign that you’re about to damn yourself. It sneaks up on you when you aren’t looking.’ — Proven Guilty: The Dresden Files, Book Eight by Jim Butcher
In this exciting prequel to the critically acclaimed Dane Curse, a pair of black capes are found dead on the floor of Wentorf Hall, mere inches away from the world’s largest diamond. Of course the cops think the pair killed each other over the heist. After all, everyone knows that the Vandenberg Coconut is a one size fits all motivation for murder. Everyone, that is, except for Dane Curse.
But when the former villain turned PI takes the case he’ll discover that the truth has more sides than a diamond has facets. And in order to get to it Dane will follow a trail that leads through an old enemy with a bagful of grudges, a killer who specializes in assassinating super villains, and a wealthy socialite with a murky motive. A thorny maze indeed, and sitting at its heart, mysteriously returned from years in hiding, is Dane’s very own daughter.
Will Dane Curse discover the thieves’ secret in time to solve the case, save his agency, and protect his only child from a vicious death? Or will he lose it all, just another victim of The Coconut Swindle?
In this follow up to the critically acclaimed Dane Curse, Matt Abraham, winner of Pulp Detective’s 2015 Newcomer of the Year Award, takes us on our second trip through Gold Coast City. It’s Dane’s very first case, the one that made the agency, but almost broke the man. If you like white knuckled action, devious dames, and heroic villains then get your copy today, and saddle up with the most exciting detective since Harry Dresden!
- Book Title: The Coconut Swindle
- Author: Matt Abraham
- Genre: Detective/Superhero Thriller
- Length: 246 pages
- Release Date: February 28, 2016 (Amazon Digital Publishing)
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My Review: 5 stars out of 5
As I said when I reviewed author Matt Abraham’s last book, I love tropes. When a writer uses them well, I’m thrilled. Matt, however, is in a category of his own. Through his anti-hero— slightly-reformed supervillain turned detective Dane Curse—Matt uses, abuses, subverts, and pays worshipful homage to the trope-defining elements of the hardboiled private eye with the comic book intensity of a superhero series. And, like the iconic beat-up cover, he nails it every time. Consider:
- Monologue: Dane Curse’s voice is a monologue that remains true to its film noir roots and Mickey Spillane dedication. The words are short, pace choppy, and worldweary voice clipped.
And the best use of a detective monologue in a trailer goes to:
- Metaphor: Dane’s world is all about the metaphor. You don’t just take a drink. “The stuff was cinnamon silk in the glass, but when it hit the human tongue it dug in like a jellyfish made of poison tar intent on fighting its way to sweet freedom.” You don’t just spot a girl. “There was a girl on the dance floor coming my way. She had on knee high boots, a black dress that would have to do some growing up before it could pass as a napkin, and every inch of the too much skin she showed was covered in tattoos. As she walked her thick hair flowed behind her like black fire, and I could feel the heat from where I was standing.” And your primly snarky secretary doesn’t just say good morning. “…she looked up at me like I was beating a puppy to death with a bagful of kittens.”
- The bottle in the desk: Poor Dane. In best PI tradition, he thinks he has the scotch in his desk. [Hint: keep an eye on what’s not in that bottle that should be, and what is in there that Dane never expected.]
- The Dame: “The door swung aside and in walked a woman. She had a long, flowing overcoat atop a tailored black suit hat hugged her hips like an old friend it hadn’t seen since high school. Her broad brimmed hat cast a shadow over a pair of almond eyes so smoky they could teach a Navajo communications course, and with two full lips as red as the menace that scared my ma she said, ‘Mr. Curse? I’m Mandy Marcus.’” Nuff said.
- The black and white: offices are beat up, rooms are dark, shadows loom everywhere. Dane Curse takes it a step further—into a world where superheroes and supervillains are separated into white and black capes.
In a black and white world, morals are gray and blood is red.
- The Patter: Fast paced, snarky, and laugh-out-loud funny.
“If you ask him questions like I do, you’ll get honest answers.”
“And what answers did you get?”
“When I asked him the name of the woman who hired the boys?”
“Yeah.” Monday shot up. “What’d he say?”
“Please stop, I can’t breathe, you’re killing me.”
- The Fantasy Noir: Like Harry in The Dresden Files, the first seasons of Angel, the four stories of Sin City, and particularly well-done in Neil Gaiman’s Hugo Award winning Sherlock hat-tip A Study in Emerald [do yourself a favor and read the short story here, set up as a Victorian newspaper], Matt Abraham not only nails this trope, he takes down the “For Sale” sign, moves in, and demands a zoning variance.
As you can probably tell, I really loved The Coconut Swindle. Five stars, of course, but that’s not enough. I gave that to his first book, Dane Curse, in my review. And this one is just better. The pace is faster, the characters more complex, the twists more unexpected. So five stars and a toast. (Just not from that bottle in Dane’s desk.)
**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.**
Matt Abraham: Awarded Pulp Detective’s Best Newcomer of 2015, Matt Abraham spits hot PI palaver mixing Mickey Spillane with the classic superheroes from the golden age. In his series Black Cape Case Files we follow Dane Curse, a former black cape turned PI, as he navigates the powered underbelly of Gold Coast City. While not writing, Matt’s engaged in juggling his newborn baby boy Kal, and supportive wife Jenny, all in the People’s paradise of China. You can find him on Facebook, authormattabraham@gmail, or in the smile of every child. Though he’ll only respond if you use the first two.