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Reef Dance [Hardcover]

John Decure
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 28 2001
There is a certain poise that comes with understanding the ocean's moods, tapping a pulse borne of a distinct, untamed, unfathomable energy source. An equilibrium, located on a singular track between the sucking trough and the pitching crest. A sense of perfect balance on a rolling, temporary stage, not a single movement wasted. A spray-blinded late takeoff in roaring Santa Ana winds. A confidence, knowing your instincts won't let you down.

Thirteen years ago J. Shepard's mother rose before dawn, packed a bag and walked out of his life forever. Since then, the rolling surf has been his only escape, a refuge from the daily stress of his job defending parents in the overburdened L.A. juvenile dependency court, and from the dark, unanswered questions of his past. When J. is assigned a high profile case, one in which a mother is accused of selling her child to the highest bidder, even a day in the surf won't let him escape. J. can't hide from the media attention that the case draws, and nor can he hide from the painful memories of his own desertion that the case congers. He realizes that if he does not confront the mystery of his own past he will always be stuck in equilibrium, unable to move against his emotional and physical tide. He will be stuck in the darkest spot in the ocean, the reef dance.

J. simultaneously throws himself into the case and search for the reasons behind his own mother's disappearance. In order to succeed in both areas, however, he must rely on an old friend, Jackie Pace, a wayward surfing legend with a sordid past, that no one believes is reliable. But J. needs his friends help, and Jackie must rise to the challenge not just because he is J.'s friend but because he is much more intimately linked to the mystery than J. could ever know.

Reef Dance will suck you into the surfer's pacific, pulling you deep within it's mystery, and the turmoil of one man's soul.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

A reef dance is surfing jargon for being stuck in one place and unable to move, aptly reflecting the dilemma of attorney J. Shepard in this edgy, in-your-face legal thriller. Stuck in the deepening grind of custody cases and a workload so overweighed that lawyers refer to clients as "Mother," "Father" and "Minor," not out of insensitivity but through sheer necessity, Shepard spends his days in a rut, unable to get out from under his staggering caseload and dreaming of surfing. One day a high-profile case involving baby-seller Sue Ellen Randall leads him, through many roundabout routes, back to his deceased mother and her uncertain fate. The author spent two years defending parents and children in dependency court before becoming a state bar prosecutor; he's also contributed to Surfer magazine and Surfer's Journal. The resulting confluence of two wholly disparate genres will appeal to some fans and leave others indifferent. DeCure vividly evokes the courtroom milieu, and has a flair for action scenes, particularly a violent set-to with a heavy: "I leapt from the bushes and clamped him hard from behind driving him up to take his feet off balance. We went down with a thud in a cloud of soft dirt, my left arm pinned beneath his chest, and I lost my grip for a second. He felt my hand letting go and freed himself enough to drive an elbow into my chin, popping me back and stunning me." Undeniably effective. But most readers, and mystery fans in particular, will find that surfing and detection make for an uneasy mix.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Attorney J. Shepard defends various indigent parents in a Los Angeles juvenile dependency court but daydreams of surfing. His latest case, that of a woman accused of "selling" her baby to several adoptive couples, reawakens Shepard's animosity toward his own widowed mother, who deserted him when he was 16. Unraveling the mystery of his mother's disappearance may even alleviate his job dissatisfaction. Along the way, Shepard is alternately helped and hindered by a glib adoption lawyer, an aging (but still wild) surfing guru, and others. Surfing commentary, savory courtroom melodrama, and wry humor provide much attraction in this first novel. Highly recommended.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Brian Bradley of "Reef Dance" Jan. 22 2002
Format:Hardcover
Mr.DeCure's "Reef Dance" is a stand-up story which takes the reader through a gamut of human emotion - deception, love, abandonment, anger, and fear. In the forum of a child dependancy court, contrasted with the uncertain ride of the surfer, the protagonist of "Reef Dance," J Sheppard, carries the reader through his life's tulmultuous series of waves, both literally at the beach, and figuratively through the heart-breaking stories of a Los Angeles child dependancy case, and his personal story of early abandonment by his mother, which eternally haunts him. The character of J Sheppard gives the reader a first-hand look at what abandonment and deception can do to the human spirt, and how these emotional blows exacerbate J's emotional carnage. "Reef Dance" is a compelling story which insists that the reader stay till the end to learn the outcome. Mr. DeCure's use of the adjective and his colorful descriptions thrust the reader into the settings themselves, making the story all the more interesting and cohesive. A very good read!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Brian Bradley of "Reef Dance" Jan. 22 2002
Format:Hardcover
Mr.DeCure's "Reef Dance" is a stand-up story which takes the reader through a gamut of human emotion - deception, love, abandonment, anger, and fear. In the forum of a child dependancy court, contrasted with the uncertain ride of the surfer, the protagonist of "Reef Dance," J Sheppard, carries the reader through his life's tulmultuous series of waves, both literally at the beach, and figuratively through the heart-breaking stories of a Los Angeles child dependancy case, and his personal story of early abandonment by his mother, which eternally haunts him. The character of J Sheppard gives the reader a first-hand look at what abandonment and deception can do to the human spirt, and how these emotional blows exacerbate J's emotional carnage. "Reef Dance" is a compelling story which insists that the reader stay till the end to learn the outcome. Mr. DeCure's use of the adjective and his colorful descriptions thrust the reader into the settings themselves, making the story all the more interesting and cohesive. A very good read!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Catching a new wave Oct. 2 2001
Format:Hardcover
John DeCure's "Reef Dance" swept me off my feet with all the power of the California surf about which he so eloquently writes. This is a new kind of mystery, one without gratuitous gunplay or exponentially-growing body counts. It is a testament to DeCure's talent that he doesn't have to resort to such writerly tricks in order to keep his story moving.
And what a fine story it is! J. Shepherd, DeCure's protagonist, is a California-based lawyer to whom fate has not been kind lately. His romantic life is a disaster, and his professional career isn't going much better. J. spends his days in the spirit-crushing environment of Los Angeles's juvenile dependency court system where cases involving child welfare and custody issues are adjudicated. Not yet thirty years old, J. is already a burnout, his ideals shattered by the never-ending stream of drug-abusing, child-beating, pedophilic clients that he is continually appointed to defend. It is only through his deep and abiding love of the ocean and the sport of surfing that J. manages to find any measure of escape from his workday nightmares, and the strength to keep on going.
But the course of J.'s life suddenly changes when he is given a monster of a case, the defense of a young, "white-trash" mother accused of selling her baby to a wealthy couple. J. wants nothing to do with this one and the media frenzy that it is already generating. Burnout aside, he is more than usually repelled by the idea of having to defend a woman who was apparently willing to abandon her child in exchange for cash. The case cuts too close to home, for as a teenager, J. himself had been abandoned by his own mother.
J., however, is given no choice in the matter and must take the assignment.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful legal procedural Aug. 28 2001
Format:Hardcover
In 1992, J. Shepard is tired of his depressing cases as an attorney for the Los Angeles County Dependency Court Legal project. Each client seems helpless with no hope for the future for himself or herself and their children yet most will do whatever is required of them to keep their children. Still after todayï¿s session with the sovereign of filth, J. looks forward to riding the surf.
However, he is unable to sneak out as planned because he is assigned the media visible case of indigent and ignorant Sue Ellen Randall, who sold her baby. Sue Ellen and her husband want the infant returned, but the foster parents, wealthy with White House connections Corwin and Kitty Danforth refuse to surrender Nathan. J. wants out of the case because it reminds him of his own mother who deserted him thirteen years ago. However, he provides legal services to Sue Ellen. As he digs deeper into the dispute, he begins to believe in the naive innocence of his client.
REEF DANCE is a powerful legal procedural that paints a different perspective on those mothers who sell their children. Readers will feel empathy towards Sue Ellen. However, the Danforths and their attorney are so tundra they are a wipe out, receiving no sympathy. The insight into juvenile dependency courts is breathtaking yet shocking. Readers will enjoy riding the waves with John deCure and hope J. will return in future dramas. However, the audience will feel disappointed that the talented author failed to surf a Saving Isiah type of wave so that the audience would feel genuine empathy towards both parties in the dispute.
Harriet Klausner
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