Dead Letter, by Frank Shima
ISBN: 159298245X, Publisher: Beaver’s Pond Press
I find myself with mixed opinions after reading Dead Letter, by Frank Shima. Frank Shima grew up in Southern Minnesota and is a graduate of the University of Minnesota. Throughout his writing career he has won a 1987 Lake Superior Contemporary Writers Series, was the screenwriter for Doing Time, produced Junkyard Dog, and belongs to the Tornado Alley Writer’s Group. This book follows his first title, Vencil.
When two bachelor brother farmers in their eighties are brutally murdered in their farmhouse in the late 1980’s, their friend and the town’s mailman, Martin Prescott, has serious doubts that the suicidal explanation for their demise is correct. New to the small rural town, Martin knows he’s already an outsider in their eyes, but forges his own bumbling investigation into the farmer’s deaths. When the niece of the two brothers, Diane Kraus, comes into town, Martin finds himself not only attracted to her, but with a new partner in his search for the true answers of what happened that night.
There were very few proofreading errors, which is a delight to report. However, as the book went on, they seemed to pop up more and more. The book was written in first person, which in certain cases in this genre, can make either the main character or the secondary ones appear one-dimensional. The majority of the secondary characters, I noticed, all seemed to be vastly overweight, giving in to a common stereotype of the Midwest. And without putting up a spoiler alert, the ending of the book, (though I understand what the author was trying to do), just felt anti-climactic to me. It could use a sentence or two to tie it together.
In saying that, it is apparent that Frank Shima has a great understanding for what it’s like to live in a small rural community, especially in the Midwest. He gave the reader a great feel for the surroundings and mindset of the characters. His writing style displays both charm and whit, drawing you into his, often times, sarcastic hilarity with ease. I found myself laughing out loud a few times while reading. The plot itself flowed nicely and, at no time, did I find myself disinterested. This book, to me, stands apart from others in its genre because of the clever way it’s told. Though there is the mystery and budding romance, I think I would categorize it in more relative terms by comparing it to Gross Point Blank- where there is all of the above elements, but a humor underlining it. He should write sitcoms. Also, I really liked the cover. I expect to see great things from Frank Shima.
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