Monday, January 3, 2011

Book Review: Chattahoochee by J. Randolph Cooper


Published on: November 2010
Page Count: 275
Genre: Mystery/Crime/Thriller (Fiction)
My Reading Format: PDF provided by the author
Available Formats: E-book for Kindle

Atlanta native, food critic and first-time author J. Randolph Cooper has recently published Chattahoochee, a mystery novel with Georgia's best-known river as a central character. Cooper calls it a "watery serpent...unconcerned with its destination yet savoring the journey." As each chapter unfolds, it is only the river that knows who murdered several young women.

Detective Craig Dvorak is part of the team searching for the killer, and as the story progresses, his search for a better life is in full swing too. Dvorak is an interesting, multi-dimensional character, foiled well by his detective partner, Tyra Washington, who never deviates from the straight and narrow. Though Dvorak isn't the kind of person I'd personally be interested in spending a whole lot of time with, he has one big quality that I found admirable: his honesty. He's both haunted by the female victims he investigates and all over the place on how he feels about women who are living (his mother, his sometimes-dating partner, his psychologist, his partner at work). Does he love women or hate them? It seems like both to me, yet that didn't bother me as a reader. Aren't humans all this confused and hypocritical?  

Besides Dvorak, Cooper has developed an interesting array of characters representing different races, nationalities, gender preferences, career paths and other demographics. Cooper is particularly skilled at writing dialogue that provides insight into characters (Dvorak's lieutenant is a New Yorker, Father O'Connor is an Irishman).

Though in places I found Cooper's writing style to be abrupt, which was sometimes jarring to me as a reader, I realized partway through the book that Cooper's writing style matches perfectly the personality of his main character. Though Dvorak is brash, rude, sexist and sex-starved, he also is quite human. He desires his life to be as good as it can be, he wants the best for his son, and he wants to be a good person. What Dvorak wants out of life is little different from what we all want out of life.  

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