Monday, October 17, 2011
Dark Horse (Jim Knighthorse Series #1) by J.R. Rain
Reviewed on October 17, 2011
Former college football star and present private investigator, Jim Knighthorse, is hired to find evidence that will prove the innocence of Derrick Booker, a black student at a well-off Orange County high school who has been arrested for killing his white girlfriend. Convinced, along with several others, that Derrick has been framed, Knighthorse soon has a roster of suspects to investigate, from the girl’s abusive father to a band director with a penchant for seducing his female students, all while dealing with his own complicated life situations – a wish to return to football as a pro player, a cold, absent father whose approval he may or may not need, new evidence pertaining to the long-ago murder of his mother, a hitman trying to “persuade” him to drop the case, and an unusual friendship with a homeless man (or is he?) at the local McDonald’s.
To say this novel was a delightful surprise would be an understatement. I honestly loved this book and it is definitely at the top of my new favorite reads. I picked it up because I like crime fiction and mystery/suspense, figuring it would be, well, just that – a murder mystery. Instead, here’s this incredibly unique story with laugh-out-loud funny lines, an unbelievably likeable narrator and a subtle touch of philosophical spirituality.
Jim Knighthorse’s almost over-the top self-confidence in his looks and talent could have, seemingly, made for a vain and annoying character, yet instead he manages to bring this across as an almost self-parodying charm. Except that it isn’t parody because, though he really does appear to think quite highly of himself, he does so with such panache and with such a compassionate and insightful evaluation of those around him, it’s impossible not to like him – not just despite his over-confidence, but somehow even in it. The lines he comes up with, both about himself and others, are often so hilarious because they’re delivered with sincerity and leave the reader feeling that they’re simply true, no argument. This would have been enough to have had me enjoy the novel, but there were so many other things I loved about it just as much. The dialogue and story are smooth and realistic with great plotting, the character development of all the main players is perfect and, though he doesn’t veer from the main crime story at hand, author J.R. Rain does a fantastic job of introducing another mystery in Knighthorse’s life, the unsolved murder of his mother. Last, but definitely not least, the addition of the narrator’s sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating circular conversations with a homeless man who may well be God make for an even more fascinating read. This aspect of the novel gives the story even more depth as Jim deals with his own personal demons – his conflict over his purpose in life, his pain over the loss of his mother, the drinking that eases his pain, physical and emotional, and his struggle to do the right thing, something at which he sometimes succeeds and sometimes doesn’t, just like every other human being.
A great narrative voice, a fast-paced and fun mystery/suspense with real-life characters and some serious reflection that subtly adds to its overall effect, I highly recommended this novel and eagerly look forward to reading the next book in this series, as well as Mr. Rain’s other novels.