Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Ghost of a Flea (John Brinling)

Overall: 4.8
  • Plot: 5/5
  • Originality: 5/5
  • Language: 4/5
  • Believability: 5/5
The Ghost of a Flea by John Brinling

Time: 1975.
Location: New York City.

The murder of Roger’s musician friend, Gideon Whiting, turns Roger’s world up-side-down. His wife, Natalie, lies to him. His best friend, Ted, lies to him. His boss and U.S. Senate candidate, Charlie Holt, lies to him. And Lieutenant Tarrington, a homicide detective, is convinced Roger killed Gideon—but is Tarrington who he claims to be, or is he lying, too?

Peggy Curtis, the blond bombshell who dropped into Roger’s life one snowy night after he left Gideon’s apartment, might be the only person who can unravel the Gordian knot facing Roger, yet she has serious credibility problems, and is the last person he would want to rely on with his life and freedom on the line.

The drug cartel masterminding much of the chaos seeks an address book it thinks Roger took from Gideon. As their ruthless pursuit intensifies, the police learn of the book and join the chase. The problem is, Roger doesn’t have what they want and he must get it before they decide he is expendable.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller

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In this story of betrayal, lies, and frequent gunfire, one very confused individual does his best to survive. As a reader, I was quickly caught up in Roger's struggles and found myself  engrossed in equal parts bewilderment and nervous anticipation.

Though initially unenthusiastic about what appeared to be a story of bitter men attempting to be philosophers, the The Ghost of A Flea quickly morphed into an intriguing tale of drug deals and the inability to know whom to trust. Red herrings abounded, and for the longest time, I was uncertain whether the main character, Roger, was hallucinating, confused, or caught up in some grandiose form of hypnosis. The manipulation around him was subtle and maintained that delicious sense of suspense that drives any good thriller.

The language in this book was as hard and driven as the plot, allowing for important details without belaboring the point by being overly descriptive. Necessary items were introduced with the same straightforwardness as ones that were later revealed to be unimportant, and through it all, that sense of dread and fascination was maintained. There were multiple instances where "passed" was used instead of "past," and more than one instance of the you're/your and who's/whose confusion. All three are generally unforgivable faux pas in my book, and had the rest of the novel not been written so well, the whole work may very well have been written off.

Characterizations here were absolutely flawless. Each person involved was distinctive, their traits consistent even with all of the acting and subterfuge woven in. Betrayals were believable, and revelations were informative without being excessively explanatory. Like any good villain, the "bad guys" had that self-defeating, hubris-driven tendency to monologue, which were like a lifeline when I, like Roger, was caught up in grasping at thin air for understanding. By far the most enigmatic character was Peggy, a woman whose loyalties were constantly called into question either to be bolstered or decimated by the contents of the following scene. The ending of the novel was satisfactory and tied up all loose ends without resorting to deus ex machina, for which I was quite thankful.

As intricate as it was enthralling, The Ghost of a Flea is one of the most surprising books that I've come across. Nothing was as expected, and I was frequently left hankering for the next great reveal. If suspense and mind games are your cup of tea, then imbibe with pleasure as you work your way through this well-written work.

(Review copy provided by the author)

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