Monday, June 3, 2013

BookReview: Paradise Palms by J.R Murdock

Paradise Palms: A Murder Mystery in a Time-Traveling Trailer Park
by J.R.Murdock

The story:
Sam lives in Paradise Palms, a trailer park in Minnesota with his girlfriend, Girlfriend (yes, that is her name...)
In the middle of the night his childhood buddy, Casper Jr., is killed under very unusual circumstances. He teams up with Detective Andrew and Myra, an expert in Dinosaurs, to solve the mystery.
Meanwhile, Lin Pza Pza, a government freelanced computer nerd calls a government associate to aid her in figuring out why several power surges have occurred the past few months in the trailer park at the same time each night.
What happened to Casper and why did the police find the head of a troodon, a dinosaur that should've been extinct a long time ago?

This is one of those books, where two genres meet. In this case Science Fiction in a more or less old fashioned Murder Mystery setting. Such a mix can be a difficult endeavor, but J.R.Murdoch manages quite well to balance the two in such a way that even though the murder mystery part plays the major role, especially in the beginning of the story, the Science Fiction part of it doesn't suffer (unless you prefer Science Fiction neat and clean, in which case you probably wouldn't bother spending your time watching X-files, Haven or Eureka - or money on this book...)

The story itself provides both a dry kind of humor (such as Sam's girlfriend actually answering to the name "Girlfriend" and the stereotype of two old men in the trailer park constantly finding each other hilarious while making jokes on everyone else's expense) and also it contains a story internally consistant.

A downside to the book is below average dialogue that both seems awkward (as in: noone would actually say some of the things being said) and even a bit too obvious at times.
Another problem is the excessive use of re-raps, specifically at the beginning of new chapters, where the point of view changes to that of another character. I really don't need to be reminded of what Sam was told by Myra when he refers their conversation to Girlfriend. A simple "then he told Girlfriend about his talk with Myra as best he could." Of course there could be circumstances in which new information need to be delivered this way, but in many cases in this book, it really isn't called for.

However, two things make this book a goodread:

The story is well conceived and is built up with both a basic story line and several minor stories going on between the characters.

The characters are well described and the author has success in making them come alive. Sam is depicted as the complex type. Anyone seeing him for the first time would probably take him for a typical trailer park yahoo, but the reader knows from the very beginning he is not. His relationship with his now deceased father is clearly warm, but in a manly "boys don't cry" kind of way. Lin Pza Pza is likewise well depicted as the child genious trying to grow up and become independant. Of course, some of the minor characters aren't as round, but that just adds to the reading experience - this way it's much easier to get a quick understanding of who is important in the story and who just plays a smaller role in getting the story going.

Overall the story is more character driven than plot driven and the author does this well.

This means, that even with some editorial issues and a few typo's, I would recommend "Paradise Palms" to you, if you like the out of ordinary kind of Science Fiction and/or Murder Mystery.

Personally, there is a whole range of other books I've enjoyed more, but still... it's worth reading...
I give it 3 out of 5 stars and stretching for the 4th star...

You can get the book here