The Dashing Mister R by debut author M. Daniel Nickle is a well written suspenseful mystery that draws the reader in from the very beginning of the story. Against the backdrop of a mysterious stranger with a secret, a murder case gone cold, voodoo seers, foreboding omens and signs from the afterlife, the story is ultimately about choices, unexpected regrets and the possibility for second chances.
Sebastian Stephens fled his fast-paced life in New York City for New Orleans. As an award-winning journalist living in Manhattan he'd had everything: a brilliant career, a wonderful apartment and had found unexpected love. But the stresses of his love affair with a man that by all accounts should have been forbidden, along with a horrific murder case that neither he nor the police were able to solve caused him to leave New York for the refuge of his childhood home in the Garden District of New Orleans and a more peaceful life. Years later, a mysterious stranger named Mister R appears at his doorstep portending life changes for Sebastian by means of a confession the stranger wants to make about the case. The information, however, comes at a price and Sebastian is confronted with a choice. He has three days to solve the mystery, or lose his life forever.
Mr. Nickle writes in a literary style with a refined sophistication that I found quite engaging and with ample descriptions that evoke strong images. The story is highly visual and coupled with a cleverly winding plot it has the makings of a good mystery film. The author also subtly infuses elements of several sub-genres in this story, which is quite effective in heightening the overall suspense. While I would characterise this novel as a mystery suspense/thriller, the paranormal elements that at times border on horror, in particular with respect to the murder case, with touches of romance combine to exude a mood of a New Orleans gothic tale.
The mystery unravels slowly and Sebastian enlists the help of his best friend Cliff an NYPD detective to solve the mystery and help Sebastian reclaim his life. There is an old-school southern elegance to the character of Sebastian that I found to be beyond charming, and very much enjoyed the author's depiction of Sebastian and Cliff's friendship as it is not often that a relationship between a gay and straight man is explored in fiction. Sebastian is a man of faith and has an innate goodness about him which is an interesting juxtaposition given the horrific circumstances of the murder case and more importantly the foreboding and sinister presence of Mister R. While the mystery plot is darkly intriguing, just as fascinating is Sebastian's internal journey about the choices he's made in his life and the one's that he now regrets.
Mr. Nickle incrementally builds the suspense to the story's climax when the mystery is revealed and ends the story with a delightfully unexpected twist. Sometimes we do get a second chance at life. The Dashing Mister R is a refreshingly different kind of mystery. A page-turner with several twists and turns and a cleverly written surprise ending that most certainly did not disappoint.