Deadly Decision

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By Gerald Darnell



1962. Tennessee. When Nathan Battle comes up on an accident, he meets a man with a briefcase full of money. There’s a fight and Nathan shoots the man and ends up with the money. Thus begins the tale of one decision that results in multiple murders, betrayal, and greed. The local police call in Carson Reno, private investigator, from Memphis to help track down the answers. Things start heating up when Nathan enters the picture and starts gathering clues.

I think this is an interesting plot with lots of angles. In some ways it’s simple, yet, in other ways, there’s complexity.


Carson Reno: Private investigator

Joe Richardson: associate in Reno’s agency

Lydia Longstreet: associate in Reno’s agency, has a sister who is dead, is a P.I. of her own, tanned, black hair

Leroy Epsee: county sheriff

Nathan Battle: married, has a brother

Titus Dunwoody: smokes, tattooed, drives a ‘55 Mercury, black hair

Joey Moretti: works for the mob, smokes.

I think the characters are fine except Carson didn’t show up until page 48 (in my epub version), and there are only 156 pages. Plenty of background information which isn’t bad, just a lot of it.


Here’s where some of the problems arise. There are a lot of tag lines that aren’t tag lines. Smiling, laughing, and such are actions, not pieces of dialogue. And there were others that were complete non-dialogue tags. There were punctuation and capitalization errors in the dialogue.

Maybe this goes toward character, but some of Reno’s dialogue showed a lot of over confidence.

Another problem with dialogue was there was a lot of repetitious talk within conversations. At times I wanted to jump in with, “Get on with it.”

Back to the tag lines, there was too much he shouted and he yelled.


Titled chapters. Profanity. Carson’s scenes are 1st person from his POV. Third person POV when other characters have their scenes w/o Carson.

This is one of the very few books I’ve read with pictures. Pictures of items (guns, beer, cars), and pictures of buildings read about in the book (motel, grocery store). They were okay, although no need to repeat them.

Ah yes. There was a LOT of repetition in phrases. Way too much. Once you have a character established, there is no need to use the first and last name of that character again except maybe at the beginning of a chapter where that person hasn’t been seen for awhile. Joey Moretti was introduced with the nickname Joey ‘get out of town’ Moretti. Great. Interesting nickname. But the author used that nickname almost every time Moretti was in a scene and some scenes had multiple uses. Once or twice is fine, but over and over gets tiring.

Ditto with the phrase everybody used, including the narrator when speaking of the mob. Every time ‘the boys on Beale Street’ was used after the first two times, I cringed. Enough already. This repetition became old and turned me off.

There was a bit of tense problems here and there.

Some other problems include:

- no explanation for how Joey survived at the beginning

- capital letters to stress words instead of italics (this was over the top when a couple characters had to yell at a deaf proprietor.)

- there’s a fight at Nathan’s brother’s house that involves Titus and Joey. After Titus shoots Joey, he yells to his girlfriend and the brother’s wife to get into the car, and yells where they’re going. Huh? You just shot a bad guy, don’t know if he lived, but you’re going to yell out your destination before you escape?

- there were a couple of surprise characters that were mentioned, but not enough, for me, to make the ending scene work. Hello? Where did you come from and how did you know all the particulars?

- Carson has a dog...named Carson. In a couple places, I had to read the sentence twice to be clear which Carson was being described.

- I don’t know, but I’m not sure if another name for Carson’s agency might have been better. It’s a bit schmoozy (can I make up a word to describe something that is a bit wrong, kinda, but doesn’t really work?) that he’d name it the Drake Detective Agency because, as he explains, the Reno Detective Agency would be confusing and not sound right, but everybody, at that time, was familiar with Perry Mason. Okay, but then to have a slight change in the woman from Della Street to Lydia Longstreet?

So, the rank. Now, this book is part of a series, and one that is farther into the series. Although I haven’t read the others, I would expect with each one, that earlier errors and problems would have been solved or severely minimized by this stage.

I thought for awhile to give this a Camouflage, but I think I have to be fair to those other Camo books.

My Rank:

Yellow Belt



Mark Hunter Added Aug 28, 2017 - 12:03am
It sounds like it has the same problems as a bad detective movie. I work hard to write good dialogue (and sometimes succeed), so when it's bad, it pops right out at me.