Verdict: PSYCHO-TROPICS effortlessly captures the wonderful eccentricities of life in South Florida (not to mention in other parts of the state) and offers a dose of oddball humor.
A lottery-winning surfer has to confront his past and engage in a battle of wits with a murderer to set his skeletons free.
South Florida Surfer Danny Teakwell is down on his luck, despite a lottery win years ago. He hasn’t squandered the money, but it hasn’t done much to lift him out of a decades-long depression, even with donating a sizable chunk each year to charity to ease his conscience. When he’s framed for the murder of a long, lost childhood friend, Danny embarks on a journey throughout Florida to clear his name, uncover who the murderer is, and discover why he’s murdering people from Danny’s past. Along the way he gets help from an eccentric cast of characters, including a lawyer who can’t follow the law, a gruff bar owner who acts as a father figure, and a precocious seven-year-old embalming expert. If he can’t outwit the murderer, he may not only lose the person he holds dearest to his heart, he may lose his life.
Set in 1995—with flashbacks to the 1970s—Dorian Box’s PSYCHO-TROPICS begins not with the protagonist Danny Teakwell. Instead, taking center stage is the murder of one Albert Thumpet, described as “the most boring member of the Seminole High School Class of 1975”. What is the reason for Albert’s murder? It is so the nameless, mentally unstable murderer can gain entry to Seminole High’s twentieth reunion. As with all mysteries there must be questions and Box sets them all up to be asked, beginning with: Who is the murderer? Why in the world is he so fixated on a high school reunion that isn’t his? Throughout the novel clues are tossed out like bait, twisting and turning the storyline along, but are never handled with a heavy hand. Likewise, the characters are brilliantly constructed, each one with their own quirks and flaws that might seem unbelievable handled by a less adept writer.
The dark humor is witty and serves to lessen the tension in all the right ways before it heightens again. The only problem is that the humor isn’t consistent from start to finish. It disappears completely for a stretch toward the end of the book, and the balance of the narrative feels slightly off. To be fair, the murders, and the reasons behind them, are serious indeed, and they’re never handled carelessly or as an afterthought, but the addition of dark humor in those areas wouldn’t have detracted from that.
PSYCHO-TROPICS effortlessly captures the wonderful eccentricities of life in South Florida (not to mention in other parts of the state) and offers a dose of oddball humor.