Sunday, October 19, 2008

Review of An Ice Cold Paradise



Lives in a tropical climate?


Lucky at gambling?


Unorthodox living arrangement?


Makes a living helping others, but isn't really a private detective?


Travis McGee, right?


Debut author Terry Holland is obviously quite familiar with the work of John D. MacDonald. There are worse influences to have as an author. But the main weakness of his debut, An Ice Cold Paradise (Point Blank, 2008), is that he's a little too familiar with MacDonald, and he might have cribbed a little too much. Holland's hero, Terry Pines, is an ex-con, and ex Army Ranger who lives in Honolulu where he owns an apartment building which he bought with proceeds he won playing the ponies. He rents the apartments to an eclectic cast of characters and runs a sideline where he specializes in being a badass for hire.

An Ice Cold Paradise finds Pines searching for his ex-cellmate's missing son, a G.I. stationed in Hawaii. Pines takes the case from the missing man's beautiful aunt, and the two of them are soon up to their necks in murder, gambling, arms running stolen jewels and Mormon fundamentalism. It's a lot, maybe a little too much, but Holland manages to fit it all together, even if he does also borrow MacDonald's tendency to indulge in dialogue and philosophy, which slows the story down in spots. Still, it never stalls out completely, and the action picks up in the final act, when it counts the most.

Holland's debut is, for all its faults, still solid. He's got something here. The reason why MacDonald wrote so many Travis McGee novels is because they appealed to readers. Here's hoping he can bring Pines out from under the shadow of his influences and find a way to make him his own man.

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