Dan Ford and I have been mutual followers on Twitter for some time now, and I finally ordered one of his books a few months ago. That led to me immediately buying the first book of his epic fantasy series The Paladin Trilogy and pre-ordering Cheap Heat, his second Jack Dixon novel, the sequel to Body Broker. It is fair to take my reviews of his work with a small amount of salt, as I do quite like the guy, but as I said in the linked review there authors do tend to be pretty good at just going radio silent when we don’t like each others’ work, and he would never have asked one way or another. (That said, I don’t seem to have reviewed Ordination, the first Paladin book– rest assured, I liked it as well.)
Cheap Heat picks up more or less right where Body Broker left off, with our hero Dixon continuing to live on his houseboat and eat his almond butter and act as a PI on the side. Ford’s character work continues to be the shining star of his writing; I feel like I know Jack Dixon, and he feels like a real, if a bit charmingly quirky, character. Dixon is contacted by a former wrestling teammate who has made the jump from collegiate-level wrestling to a mid-sized pro circuit. His character is based on Ulysses S Grant, and seeing as how the circuit takes place mostly in the mid-Atlantic and the South, his character is actually a bad guy— and he’s been receiving death threats. Dixon has to embed himself inside the wrestling company as they go on tour while he attempts to figure out who is threatening to kill his friend, and so the back 2/3 of the book is on tour with this touring professional wrestling crew, which is not something I’ve ever seen in a novel before and definitely made the book memorable.
This is the second of Ford’s novels I’ve read at effectively one sitting (Ordination is a bit too long for that to have been an option;) I started it before bed last night, put it down to sleep, then got up in the morning and finished it. If I have a gripe about the book, it’s that it’s a little too short– about the same length as Body Broker at 238 pages, so I’m sure the length is a deliberate decision, but I’d have liked another 20 pages or so to let some of the subplots and the relationships between the characters breathe a little bit more. Dixon’s relationship with his newfound girlfriend Gen feels a little bit shorted, especially since he’s on the road for the majority of the book and so they aren’t actually together– I’ll admit that there were a couple of places in the book where I was mentally shouting Call your girlfriend! at him. But I would like more of this please is not really that strong of a criticism, as they go.
The ending, I think, deserves some particular praise, as the main plot of the story and a simmering subplot carried forward from the first book knit themselves together in a way that frankly took me completely by surprise, and there is a twist in the very last sentence that has me seriously curious about where Ford plans to go with Jack Dixon next. The third book is already planned– it’s called Doctor’s Note according to that final page– but as of right now I don’t believe it has a release date. I was lucky to read Body Broker when Cheap Heat wasn’t that far off from release; I’m going to have to wait for this next one, unfortunately.
The good news is, every time I catch Dan on Twitter I can yell at him to get back to work. 🙂
12:53 PM, Tuesday, May 19: 1,510,988 confirmed cases and 90,432 American deaths.