Review of Sleeping to Death
(4.5 out of 5.0 stars)
A martial artist and bodyguard must solve the murder of his client’s brother, while mourning his late wife, watching his mentor die, and protecting those he loves.
In this continuation of the author’s previous novel Point and Shoot, Lock Tourmaline, former cop and currently practicing martial artist and bodyguard, is still mourning the death of his late wife Janice. At the same time, he has to watch his teacher and mentor Grandfather “sleeping to death,” deliberately and consciously preparing to leave the world, leaving his teachings, his students, his wife April, and his son Fletcher to Lock’s protection. His relationship with his girlfriend Pauline is falling apart, mainly because she isn’t Janice, and his other ex-wife, the neurotic and demanding Lori, is after him to get back copies of some adult videos an ex-boyfriend made of her. In the midst of this, Jason Heung, brother of his client Susan Heung, is murdered in prison, and Lock is given the task of finding out who was responsible. The answer seems obvious at first—the Heungs’ main rival in the crime world, Cousin Bodacious, but Cousin Bodacious has the jail’s law enforcement under his thumb, and sticking him with the crime isn’t going to be easy. And then new evidence turns up—but can Lock Tourmaline solve the case, keep himself intact, and protect those in his care while doing what he needs to do to become a worthy successor to Grandfather?
SLEEPING TO DEATH is a book with a lot of disparate elements—think David Carradine meets Sam Spade meets Sin City—but the author is gifted enough to blend them all together into a harmonious and readable whole. This is a gritty, action-filled mystery with a dry, slightly bitter sense of humor and surprising emotional depth. Lock’s sense of responsibility and protectiveness are endearing, even if he frequently allows himself to be manipulated by the women for whom he feels responsible—as Pauline tells him in no uncertain terms, in one of the best scenes in the novel. He visibly grows into his new role during the course of the book, achieving new spiritual and mental maturity as he prepares himself to move from disciple to teacher, and as he trains his adopted daughter Bette to step into his own shoes. The back-and-forth banter is sharp and acerbic, and only stops when Grandfather’s calming influence enters the scene, providing a sense of a spiritual and emotional foundation that underlies everything Lock does. There is enough energetic martial-arts action to make a reader wistfully wish for a movie, too, and the mystery has enough twists and turns to keep the pages turning.
April and Lori can at times be exasperating in their helplessness—both of them appear rather dependent on Lock to do what they need done. April needs Lock’s help to do so little a thing as chase a monk off her lawn, and when Lori tries to take action herself to retrieve her videos, it is inevitably disastrous—she disregards Lock’s counsel in favor of direct physical action which goes horribly wrong, and requires him to come and rescue her again. Thankfully, they aren’t the only women in the book. Pauline and Bette, for example, can be quite competent, each in their own way. The ending leaves some loose ends hanging, and is obviously setting up for the next book. The reader who cannot stomach suspense should be warned.
Vigorous physical action, witty dialogue, unsavory but necessary moral choices, and a touch of Enlightenment combine to make SLEEPING TO DEATH a mystery well worth reading.