Plot: The plot is complicated, which is appropriate for the genre, but well controlled and well handled.
Prose: The author's style is straightforward and suspenseful. Perhaps the subtext of overcoming writer's block is a bit too pat, but otherwise this is a solid performance.
Originality: The main character's side business is a clever touch, but this book's strength lies not in breaking new ground but in the way the mystery unfolds and deepens.
Character Development: Most characters are developed clearly, while others remain mysterious. Both keep the manuscript moving at a good pace.
Blurb: In this suspenseful page turner, bodies pile up, bourbon flows, cigarettes burn down, suspects multiply, and Sebastian Drake finds himself working a case that threatens everything he holds dear.
Date Submitted: June 26, 2017
“A Fine Line is a suspenseful, in-your-face, mystery novel that will keep you guessing until the very end.” Charles K.
“A Fine Line is a wonderful noir feeling adventure from the venerable Dan Burns. Enough action and romance to keep all fans of murder mysteries turning pages long into the night.” Lisa L.
“Well thought out plot filled with vivid descriptions of Chicago architecture and political corruption.” Roxe Anne P.
“An engaging, unpredictable plot; interesting characters you will come to love or hate; and a writing style that makes it an enjoyable read.” Florence O.
“Once I started reading Chapter 1, I wanted to continue reading until I was finished. A good mystery, intriguing, easy to follow, descriptive scenery and characters.” Opal F.
“To read this book merely as a detective story is not to see that the underlying tension, the “Fine Line” is the key to Sebastian Drake’s true nature. He lives for the tension in the taut moment of the reveal.” Marssie M.
“The story is fast-paced and creative, the mystery proceeds logically, with good action and realistic dialogue, and has a satisfactory conclusion. The reader comes to like the main character and will look forward to the next book.” Patricia C.
Dan Burns has given us a terrific murder mystery set in contemporary Chicago, complete with a scarred, complex hero and a plot that never stops twisting. Renee J.
“A Fine Line is a fast paced mystery thriller. The main plot line is continually fed by many subplots making for an enjoyable read, culminating in a tense and thrilling conclusion.” Ed M.
A Fine Line (A Sebastian Drake Novel). Dan Burns. Chicago Arts Press, June 6, 2017, Hardcover and E-Book, 294 pages.
Reviewed by Marssie Mencotti.
This fine detective novel is a thoroughly engrossing Chicago experience as well as an engaging tale of the corrupting effect of power and privilege. I went down every street with Sebastian Drake. I understand his loyal midwestern friendships. And you cannot know Chicago without knowing that everyone here is connected by less than six degrees. I was also captivated by the incipient creepiness of old Chicago landmarks and the fact that there is no statute of limitations on cover-ups, personal vendettas, and the machinations of the elite.
The leading character, Sebastian Drake, is making his living as a writer and as we are reading about him in this novel, he is writing about his alter ego in a new novel for which he has received an advance. I enjoyed the book within a book device. It was interesting to see how much of the real case Drake was adding to his novel and how much he was leaving out.
Which brings me to the perfect title of the novel: A Fine Line. Every event we experience has its outcome differentiated by a fine line. It is the fine cut that was made to sever the young woman’s hand from her body. It is Drake’s persona wavering on a tightrope between boozy self-indulgence and disciplined sobriety. It is a fine line of demarcation between right and wrong and knowing when to defend and when to attack.
Drake’s character is slowly revealed. We are presented with a seasoned specialist skilled in a variety of professions. He is a spy, a journalist, a detective, a bookstore proprietor, a husband, and a father. His qualifications for the jobs he is being asked to multi-task are spot on. This makes his work seem effortless. To be fair, Chicago people do not usually flaunt their abilities. Better to let people find out the hard way. The internal monologue that Drake keeps regarding his work, his family, and his past is stated in a very sober way. Even the way in which Drake deals with the tragedy in his past life is private and personal.
Drake’s sense of justice may sometimes seem more like poorly handled anger management but he does put the bad guys away without hesitation. For a character that is so qualified in all of his professions he only does what he feels like doing and leaves the management of his empire to others, making him to seem cold and indifferent to one or more of them. Someone else runs his beloved bookstore. His ex-wife cares for his children. His friend Scotty manages the guns and the gun range. His agent manages his book business, and so on. So although he is a superstar, he is dependent on many others. Perhaps this is the fine line between who he is and who he appears to be.
He is not always “emotionally available.” Two instances of this come to mind. First, his burgeoning feelings for Angie, a Chicago Police detective, spike and deflate in just a day or two. Once she’s out of the picture, he starts to think about his ex-wife again. Later in the book when an incident involving his daughter occurs he is less emotional than mechanical. True, he feels more effective seeking her with his brain and not his heart but we never feel that he truly considers the dangerous consequences if he’s wrong.
This is a compelling read on many levels. How does a man so qualified for success manage to fail at the things that are personal and succeed beyond expectation on the things that are public? To read this book merely as a detective story is not to see that the underlying tension, the “Fine Line” is the key to Sebastian Drake’s true nature. He lives for the tension in the taut moment of the reveal.