Author: C.S. DeWildt
Publisher: Shotgun Honey (an imprint of Down & Out Books)
Release Date: May 2018
Disgraced cop-turned-small town private investigator Gus Harris is a man with meagre expectations. All he wants is enough business to keep his one-man operation afloat and the opportunity to remain a part of his estranged children’s lives. When a pair of distraught parents enlist him to track down their missing son – a promising member of the wrestling team at Horton High School – the assignment taps into Gus’s tenacious side, and puts him on a collision course with the team’s creepy born-again Christian coach, Geoff Hanson, and his ready-made squad of swollen man-child henchmen.
The wonderfully titled Suburban Dick represents something of a curveball after DeWildt’s excellent Kill ‘Em With Kindness (All Due Respect, May 2016) – which was described as ‘a brutally enjoyable slab of small town carnage’ on this site shortly after its release. If the plot seems tame at first glance, the story is anything but, and there is a truly glorious moment late in the book in which the situation lurches grotesquely out of control!
Despite his numerous faults, the short-tempered Gus is a tremendously likeable protagonist, and you find yourself rooting for him from the start. He may be sloppy – since being kicked out by his wife he sleeps on a fold-out sofa bed in his office – but his love for his family and his moral code shine through. DeWildt does a great job of reconfiguring a potentially clichéd character into fully-realised human being, and Gus actually evolves as the story unfolds.
Suburban Dick is a treat, and I look forward to future instalments, as Gus feels like a character with plenty more mileage in the tank. DeWildt is at his strongest when he is confounding expectations and exploring the seedy underbelly of small town America, and this book does both very well. Great stuff.
Review by Tom Leins