Standiford couldn’t write a bad novel if his life depended on it,”
critic Peter Mergendahl once enthused on the pages of the Rocky Mountain
News. Resounding kudos for
Standiford’s new thriller Deal
with the Dead suggest that Mergendahl’s perspicacity is
validated by the test of time—Standiford’s new hardcover is his sixth
in the popular series featuring intrepid Miami building contractor hero
John Deal and his eighth novel overall.
two years since Black Mountain
(Putnam, Aug. ’98), an action-driven stand-alone (Deal-less) thriller
which revisited the timely environmental themes and wilderness settings of
his cinematic debut novel Spill
(the movie Spill still runs occasionally on late-night cable) legions of
faithful of the award-winning, urbane suspense author will be happy to
learn that Miami building contractor John Deal—a sort of “Galahad with
a nail gun”—is back for his sixth appearance in this fast-paced,
intricately-plotted novel of suspense.
artfully back and forth from the late 50s/early 60s—when protagonist
John Deal’s builder/father Barton Deal was a leading contractor during
the nostalgic period which erected the glitzy Miami and Miami Beach
playgrounds of the Arthur Godfrey-era—to time present, when son John is
laboring to restore the fortunes of DealCo back to a semblance of its
former corporate health, the action moves from Turkey to Paris, to the
Caribbean and crosses to South Florida, bringing John and his ex-cop
sidekick Vernon Driscoll to an inexorable rendezvous with the past.
as the winning bidder on a lucrative government-funded project, John Deal
is visited by a chimerical figure, representing himself to be from an
unspecified covert Federal agency. The
agent informs John that his father, to save himself from bankruptcy, had
entered into an association with a Mafia Don.
The senior Deal was then forced to turn informer for the same
covert government agency. In a cruel twist of fate, Deal’s father was caught between
the forces of good and evil and ordered by the mob to assassinate his
friend Grant Rhodes, a high-rolling owner of a gambling ship and several
casinos. This quandary
supposedly led to the elder Deal’s suicide.
With ironic déjà vu, John Deal is trapped in a similar dilemma
when Rhodes’ son shows up to collect his father’s treasure stash.
Proof positive that he couldn’t write a bad novel if he tried—Deal with the Dead is Exhibit-A that Standiford just keeps getting better.