Deadly Serious
by A. J. Thibault
Encircle Publications

"He chuckled when he saw the fear of death in Dan's eyes, the fear of death he had seen so many times."

Standup comics are seldom the stuff of spy yarns. This novel is different, though. It is different not only in the protagonist's occupation but also in the tale's elaborate examination of his internal angst. Think of Dostoyevsky's guilt-ridden Raskolnikov channeling a bit of Jerry Seinfeld to get a mental picture of the Weltschmerz going on in this hero's head.

Set in the 1980s and '90s, Dan is the financially secure son of an oil company leader. However, he has no desire to join his dad's firm. When he's fired from his teaching gig, he sets his sights on the career he's always wanted: standup comedy. Circumstance, however, rolls a boulder in his path. Dan witnesses a murder and is, unfortunately, witnessed in the witnessing. Information passed to him by the victim becomes the holy grail that a coterie of nefarious characters wants. Making matters seemingly better, but potentially worse, he falls in love with Lauren, a beautiful and sharp lady who may or may not be aligned with the forces seeking the dead man's knowledge.

Author Thibault is a highly skilled writer, adept at both storytelling and characterization. His dialogue is crisp, and he keeps it free of obvious plot exposition. His characters come to life on the page, their idiosyncrasies magnifying both their motives and behavior. Depictions of bucolic settings highlight the author's ability to paint with words. Suspense and violence are handled with cinematic impact. The pace of his tale is swift without seeming rushed but is occasionally impeded due to Dan's frequent musings on his relationship with Lauren—ground previously well plowed. Still, this book is a unique twist on the genre. Readers who like thrillers that color outside the lines will likely be drawn to this entertaining abstract.

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