‘Dead South,’ by David Banner

This is another southern mystery, the first book in a series set in Charleston, South Carolina. Dead South introduces police detective Ryan Devereaux. Ryan is a native son of Charleston, and the book is as much about Charleston as about the mystery. Everywhere author David Banner rhapsodizes about the beauty of the place, its gracious traditions, its friendly people. You’d think there wasn’t any dark side to the south at all, apart from a murder or two.

As the story begins, Ryan gets a call that a body has been found buried a swamp. It’s an old body, long skeletonized. But when he sees it, he knows immediately who it is. It’s Haley King, his high school girlfriend. She’s wearing the dress she wore to the prom, the night she stood him up.

Because he’s a cold case detective, Ryan is assigned the case. He swings into it with a vengeance. Someone in town killed Haley, and that person will not hesitate to kill again and again, to keep the truth hidden

Usually when I say a book is badly written, I mean it literally. Grammatical and spelling errors have become tiresomely common in the new, more egalitarian publishing world. Dead South isn’t badly written in that sense. Author Banner knows how to write a decent sentence. His problem is that he hasn’t mastered telling a story.

It’s hard to sympathize with Ryan Devereux. He’s so sure of himself, so obsessed with the case, so willing to cut corners and disobey his superiors, that he seemed like a madman to me. We’re constantly told in this book how laid-back and casual Charleston people are, but Ryan is like a high tension wire, vibrating in a hurricane. Also, I found much of the plot implausible.

So I wasn’t terribly impressed with Dead South, though I did stick with it to the end. Profanity and mature content were pretty minimal.

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