Monday, November 17, 2008

Guest Blog - Dead Soul

About twenty-five years ago, I took a university class on adolescent literature. I read a lot of books that I enjoyed but I never liked reading fantasy or science fiction. Two books that we were assigned to read were Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting. My professor kept encouraging me to read more fantasy. She was convinced that I would enjoy it. Needless to say, I never did become “hooked” on fantasy novels for adolescents or adults.

My indifference to fantasy has led me to wonder why I find James D. Doss’ mysteries intriguing and enjoyable. I recently finished Dead Soul and felt even more wrapped in the mystiscism in this Charlie Moon mystery.

In this mystery Aunt Daisy sees a young red headed woman on two separate occasions. Both times she realizes that the woman wants to talk to Charlie about something. Both times she is told by the woman that she can be found in an abandoned mining town in an arroyo. When the local police check it out, the two officers find no one living in the arroyo and they hastily leave the abandoned mining camp without acknowledging to each other that something there does not feel right.

In the meantime Charlie has been asked to look into the unsolved death of a Ute tribesman, Billy Smoke. Billy was acting as a chauffeur for a U.S. Senator. One night while waiting in a parking lot for the senator, he was bludgeoned to death. Shortly after he was killed, the senator approached the car and was attacked and left crippled as a result of his beating.

As always Charlie is able to recognize the truth although it is buried between layers of deception. However, this novel more than any other that I have read by Doss has a haunting quality. In fact Charlie cannot sleep because of dreams of the missing red headed woman. Unfortunately Dead Soul is one of Doss’ earlier books. I have read some of his more recent novels and have not encountered quite the same otherworldly atmosphere in them. I am having feelings of regret that I may not find another novel with practical Charlie haunted by another dead soul. And this from someone who has always said, “I just don’t like fantasy.”

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