Bad Karma (Five Star, 2009), Dave Zeltserman’s follow up to Bad Thoughts, finds the author trying to take a path less traveled in PI novels, as well as produce work that might be less off putting to the casual reader than his man-out-of prison novels, Small Crimes and Pariah, and the yet-to be-published Killer. Zeltserman will probably make his mark on the world of hard boiled fiction with the man-out-of-prison works. Small Crimes was excellent, and Pariah, while it will never replace Catcher in the Rye on high school freshman English reading lists, will stand the test of time.
One cannot, however, fault a working writer for trying to find a commercial outlet, which is what Zeltserman is trying to do with his Bill Shannon novels, by mixing your standard hard-boiled ex-cop PI with a dash of the supernatural. It’s not full on Twilight, with vampires and werewolves, but there is a healthy dose of new-age phenomenon, like lucid dreaming and out-of-body experiences. It is refreshing to see a PI character turning to meditation instead of the bottle after a traumatic experience, but readers’ mileage may vary depending on their tolerance for hippy-dippy talk (not to mention discussion of the relative merits of the Red Sox versus the Yankees).
Still, while Bad Karma is not as good as Zeltserman’s non-series work, there is still a solid PI story at its center. Shannon has relocated to Denver and reconciled with Susan, his ex-wife, when he is hired to investigate the brutal beating death of a couple college students. He also agrees to help a desperate mother try to rescue her daughter from a local cult. True to form, both cases dovetail in the end, and Shannon ends up uncovering a larger conspiracy, and when it comes to problem solving Shannon isn’t exactly a pacifist, his penchant for meditation notwithstanding, so there’s plenty here for fans of the genre.
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