"Bloody Bonsai" is the first of the Jim Dany series, and it is plainly average. Dandy is a retired physical therapist who was dragged into doing Elterhostel by his kids. He meets Doddie Swisher, and falls in love with her. In the meantime, a shady hotel clerk is found stabbed to death with get this-a bonsai tree. It is up to Jim and Doddie to solve the mystery and find the killer so they can be cleared. Blackmail and illicit love are two things they dig up.
Crisp dialogue and humor add a light flair to this mystery. Although Jim and Dodie are hardly the poster boy and girl for morals (I would hope my mother isn't as loose as Dodie!), they do manage to come up for air often enough to trip over some bodies and get into life-threatening situations. A new voice in mysteries that is talented and entertaining. And I learned quite a few things about bonzai trees, too.
This is author Peter Abresch's first novel, and it's painfully obvious from the first page. Now, to be fair, the man has an eye for detail, and the the pacing is good. However, the characters are all stupid stereotypes of the worst kind that can be found in countless other detective novels. There's the energetic old lady, the crusty general that still thinks he's in the military, the lesbian (who apparently serves only to be a foil for her attractive roommate), the maid who speaks broken English, and the rich old guy with the young girlfriend, to name just a few. Adding to this is Abresch's atrocious writing voice. Never have I heard the phrase "yeah, buddy" used more often and more gratingly than it is here. Sure, it's Jim Dandy's trademark or whatever, but why not just print it on the cover and save a few pages of paper? Dodee Swisher can also be summed up with the words "wheaten hair" (which are used about every tenth page) and "cornflower blue eyes". Be prepared for a quick read, because this book contains so many single-sentence paragraphs that you can finish a page in seconds. If half of these had been removed or simply added to the other paragraphs, you'd have about fifty pages less. I also just couldn't bring myself to care about ANY of the characters. James P. Dandy really needs to see a shrink, and soon. His social paranoia (which exceeds that of a thirteen-year-old) and overall personality make me want to murder him, too. The supporting cast, while all having distinct personalities, are all just background; none of them do anything significant. I'm also convinced the killer's name was drawn out of a hat. If you've perchance visited an Elderhostel yourself, this book may be interesting. I doubt it would appeal to anyone under the age of sixty. While it deals with murder and adultery, the novel overall is too gentle to really draw in the reader. Hopefully Abresch will try again, because the man shows much promise as a writer.