Review: Death of a Dream Maker by Gallagher Gray

It’s always a problem, when you’re a writer yourself, to review other people’s books. You want to be honest because readers deserve to know what you really think. But if your honest opinion is “I hated it,” then you soon discover that you’re losing friends and alienating people all over the place. When you’re an indie publisher and you depend on the goodwill of the indie community, it’s even less of a good idea to shaft a colleague with a bad review.

My solution to this dilemma, as of now, is to only review books that I can honestly say I really enjoyed. There will be two grades on my reviewing list –

  1. “I really enjoyed it,” and
  2. “It blew my socks off. This is among my favourite books ever.”

Considering that I find another book of type 2 about once a decade, that means that most books I review will be books I really enjoyed.

Death of a Dream Maker is one of these. The book starts when 84 year old Auntie Lil phones her nephew to ask him to come and tidy up because an old flame who she hasn’t seen for twenty years is coming over. The cleaning ensues, but the old flame doesn’t arrive because he’s been murdered. Lil and TJ (the nephew) attend the funeral where she spots another dead body in the grave, and we’re off at a tremendous pace.

Max, the murdered man, is a millionaire whom Lil never stopped loving, and who never stopped loving her. His family however are not so fond of her, particularly when it turns out she inherits half of Max’s fortune, and they are the kind of ugly characters to act on their dislike. Meanwhile the other dead man–Max’s nephew–had ties to the NY mob, and in investigating the deaths, Lil finds herself helping the police take down an organized crime ring.

It is a cozy, so nothing too awful happens to our main characters, but there was maybe a little more peril than I was expecting. At one point Lil has to fight off armed assailants in the dark (and makes a good job of it too.) It was a genuinely exciting book, but it’s charming too, with some great metaphors and a dash of humour.

When I first started it I could tell that it was written by a writer who was accomplished and confident, but there was something very odd going on. Not exactly head-hopping, but I couldn’t identify the point of view character. That bugged me for a while until I suddenly realized that I was seeing omniscient point of view. Gosh, it’s been a while since I’ve seen that! I’d forgotten there was anything other than first-person, third-person and the dreaded second-person. It suited the age of the main character and gave me a real blast from the past which contrasted nicely with all the excitement.

I wasn’t even close to guessing whodunnit, and in fact I got rather lost in the complexity of all the plot threads, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this fast-paced yet civilized romp.