Wednesday, April 23, 2014
By LLOYD FERRISS
"Sunrise," by Portland author Al Lamanda, is a high-action crime novel that delivers the unbeatable combination of realism wrapped into a very imaginative plot.
"SUNRISE: A JOHN BEKKER MYSTERY." By Al Lamanda. Five Star Publishing. 292 pages. $25.95.
And for a thriller knee-deep in blood and gore, it's a remarkably funny book.
In one passage early in the novel, for instance, private investigator John Bekker and partner Walt meet Sheriff Jane Morgan at the scene of a grisly murder in a motel room.
The victim's body has been removed. But evidence -- including a bloody rug -- is intact.
As they discuss the scene, the hardened investigators enjoy breakfast. Lamanda pulls it off masterfully through dialogue.
" 'It's a lot of blood,' Walt said as he bit into a lemon cream.
" 'The kid died hard,' I said as I tackled a Boston cream. 'He bled a great deal before he died.'
" 'Which means what?' Jane said as she wiped cream from her lemon doughnut off her chin."
Set at a beach and in a Utah orphanage, among other places, the mystery facing Bekker opens with that first motel murder and a shocking development.
Sheriff Jane's trusted county prosecutor, attractive Carly Simms, is arrested for the murder of 23-year-old Jon Cecil Hughes, whose multiply-stabbed body turns up in the motel.
The first police on the scene find Simms naked and passed out drunk near Hughes' body.
A letter opener Simms carries in her handbag is the weapon. To further cement the case against her, she fails a lie detector test.
But Bekker and the sheriff have a gut feeling she's innocent.
Simms hires investigator Bekker -- an old friend from previous cases -- to clear her name.
The author's mastery of subject is no accident.
After growing up in the Bronx, Lamanda studied law enforcement and security at New York University and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Then he became a crime prevention specialist.
"In my 27 years, I must have conducted 3,000 interviews and interrogations of suspects," he said. "It translates into my writing, as I use some of those skills in my stories."
Lamanda, 60, moved to the Portland area with his wife in 1997, where he has published five novels and written 15 others for Kindle.
A 2012 novel by the author, "Sunset," has been nominated for The Edgar mystery writing award. "Sunrise" is a sequel to "Sunset," which is also a John Bekker mystery.
They share many characters, including Bekker's outspoken girlfriend, as well as Walt and a daughter recovering from emotional trauma.
"Sunrise" is superb. It's a wild and worthwhile read as Bekker connects the dots between young killers and a Utah orphanage.
En route, a karate expert bloodies the detective and a phantom-like bicycle rider pursues him with a vengeance.
Lloyd Ferriss is a writer and photographer who lives in Richmond.