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Book Review – Dead Air: A Cycling Murder Mystery by Greg Moody

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Dead Air: A Cycling Murder Mystery: If that tagline doesn't grab your attention, the comic book-like cover most likely will. Mysteries are always fun, and when they're paired with a situation that is not normal or likely, they become intriguing just because of the entertainment value alone. Dead Air doesn't do too much to speed by the competition with wheels clicking, but it does provide some immediate gratification.

This book is Greg Moody's fifth in the Cycling Murder Mystery series, although for those who haven't read the other four, Moody gives enough background information for one to gain a sense of what happened in the other stories while not giving away too much. It's probably best to begin from square one, but I found myself reading this book first and wasn't too confused.

In Dead Air, Will Ross is a struggling widower after his wife was killed in a basketball bombing. Ross is now left with his child, Elena, as he attempts to overcome his lethargy, get back into the work force in the sports section at local television station TV6, and forget about the past. Elena is the one who has really lost the most – her mother but also her father, because Ross is hesitant to take on the job of father alone.

Ross has his mother-in-law Rose to look after the baby while he gets on his feet, and he finally goes back to his job, where a new anchor is trying to take over his position. Ross also gets a call from the man who killed his wife, and so he promptly calls his good friend Detective Whiteside back into the case to get to the bottom of things.

As all this is occurring, Ross is seduced by a manipulative reporter, Beth Freeman, who is working to get Ross fired from his job and pen an emotional (and faked) special on Ross' detachment from his daughter. Ross' friend Zorro, Clyde Zoromski, tries to warn him about Freeman's bitchiness, but Ross doesn't want a man to get between him and his sexual desires. All this and bombs, bombs, bombs.

Moody puts so many characters into his stories, and they each have their own distinct personality. This is a good thing, because with so many characters, it is sometimes hard to lose track of who they all are. When their personalities come up, though, it makes it easy to tell who they are. I remembered the characters more for how they acted than their actual names.

There are some characters who are just plain likable – Zorro, for example, is a case of a character being more likable in a story than in real life. His attitude is one of negativity, which would probably make him annoying in reality, yet in the novel I wanted to see more of him. Ross, on the other hand, is a helpless bumbling mess, which almost makes sense since he is still full of sorrow from his life, but one would like to hope that a man would not be so enthralled with sex that he would drop all of his morals and wit for it. Ross makes mistakes that are incredibly tedious, being convinced of situations by words alone, that we can understand how he had never found his wife's murderers.

Ross is not the only thing that seems unbelievable. The detectives are dumb – they can't figure anything out for the life of them until the inexperienced figure it out for themselves. Ross was better off alone – the police keep getting in Ross' way, actually, and by the time they figure out the mystery for themselves, it's too late; everything has already been dealt with. Also, most events seem too coincidental. This just happens to happen which sets off this who happens to be there… Yadda yadda yadda it would be okay if it happened once or twice, but the book offers this up as an explanation again and again.

However, the story is intriguing and thrilling, page-ripping one could even say, once you tune out thoughts like, "How could they really not know!" or "How could he actually FALL for that?" It's pretty suspenseful and the plot moves faster than Ross whipping down a mountain on his bike. At times, the plot can actually feel a bit muddled with so much happening at once, but it straightens itself out towards the end.

The chapters are cut into scenes, too, so it's easy to pick up and put down the book when needed. The narration shifts between all of the characters, which can get annoying because during any given scene we might be in two different character's minds in the space of two sentences. The surprise towards the end isn't a gigantic twist, and it can be seen coming, although Moody provides just enough distraction to keep us from knowing who the killer is early on.

Dead Air does have its flaws, but it's a fast and easy read for those looking for murder pulp. It's not rich with character analyses, psychological drama, or metaphors, but it's still a great read to be entertained, and a book doesn't always need thick prose to mire in for it to be good. The most important thing about Dead Air is that it's enjoyable and humorous, suspenseful and ironic, all at the same time, and one other thing – it almost makes you want to go ride a bike like Ross does, mile after mile… On second thought, maybe only one mile – Moody makes it seem as though those 50-mile bike rides are cake, but I have a feeling he's exaggerating.

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