Sleeping to Death, by G. D. Baum, is the second book in the Lock Tourmaline murder mystery series.
Lock Tourmaline is a New Jersey private investigator. Lock, a former cop, is working as a bodyguard for Korean druglords. Jason Heung, the brother of the head of the Korean organization, is murdered in prison. Susan Heung wants Lock to find out who murdered her brother since the authorities aren’t looking into his murder.
While trying to solve the mystery, Lock is also dealing with his ex-wife, who wants to buy DVDs that show her performing a sexual act with her ex-boyfriend. Her ex sold the video for cash, unbeknownst to Lori. And Grandfather, Lock’s martial arts instructor, is dying. His wife, April, is beside herself and worries about her and her son’s future without Grandfather.
What makes this book a tight and intriguing Noir is all the revolving parts. Lock isn’t just trying to figure out who killed Jason Heung; he’s also trying to hold his life together. This aspect will ring true with many readers, because more often than not, everyday life is messy. Baum’s mystery includes all these nuances, and he connects them in an engaging and exciting way. Making Lock a normal guy helps the reader relate to him. The reader may not agree with all the choices he makes, but they can sympathize with him, and cheer for him.
Another winning aspect of Baum’s novel is the sordid cast of characters. Lock, a former cop and an employee of Korean drug overlords, deals with the worst of the worst. As he digs deeper into the murder mystery, he is pulled further and further into a world many of us can’t understand. Nonetheless, this world fascinates so many and Baum understands this and uses it to his advantage. Many of the characters are despicable with questionable morals, and, given the setting and circumstances, they are plausible, which is terrifying. This adds another element of realism to this crime novel.
Given all the pluses for this novel, it is a shame that the author at times relies solely on dialogue to advance the plot. The dialogue is witty, fun, and effective, and is reminiscent of classic whodunnit films. Yet there is a big difference between movies and books. Viewers can see where the actors are, and what they look like. Readers rely on an author to set the scene. A line here and there would greatly enhance the overall reading experience, and really pull the reader in completely without compromising the author’s style of focusing on what’s being said.
This is a skill that takes time to develop and one hopes that as the series continues, the author will improve setting the scene. This little tweak will bump his stories up from good to you don’t want to miss out. When Baum does include description, he does it well, which is a bit befuddling for the reader, since they are left knowing he can bring certain aspects to life.
Saying that, this is still an enjoyable, fast-paced crime novel that will shock readers and keep them guessing.