Durwood Oak Jones, the titular hero of Jeff Bond’s DEAR DURWOOD, is an uncompromising man of rough charm and considerable principle. An aging ex-soldier, he has the exploits of James Bond with none of the slick, manicured attitude. Add the rugged, resourcefulness of a Clint Eastwood lead, as well as a dash of playful Southern-isms, and what readers get is a wholly unique feeling main man.
It takes a strong protagonist to drive a realistic thriller like this, but Durwood is more than up to the task. The author delivers a lead with such engaging qualities that readers will be happy to sit back and enjoy Durwood’s dry humor, no-nonsense proficiency, and unpretentious openness. The story itself is perfectly paced – as swift and sure as Durwood’s own pursuit of justice and truth. And that’s not to say everything goes easy, as there are jagged rocks and sharp toothed fish aplenty in this fast-moving river. But even with the suspense and dangerous conflicts, readers never for a second believe that Durwood will do anything less than his best.
One small weakness of this story is the author’s choice to constantly reference Durwood’s previous adventures, which are often wacky, and science fiction-esque in nature. In the highly realistic setting of DEAR DURWOOD they feel off-balance, like they don’t fit with the rest of the world. And it gives the unfortunate impression that readers are supposed to find Durwood impossibly cool. It is also completely possible that simply not having read the previous Durwood books puts readers at a disadvantage, leaving jokey tidbits to fall flat. Either way, in a thriller which is unflaggingly pragmatic the abundant winks to zombies and space lasers feel rather like a tease.
The most pleasantly surprising part of DEAR DURWOOD is the author’s confident, clear prose. Bond’s style is spare, but he paints the settings with sure strokes so that readers will not just see, but feel the place, effortlessly holding it in their minds. The echoing immensity of a dark warehouse, a glittering and imposing hotel dining room, the rugged beauty of Durwood’s West Virginia cabin…these places feel so real when Bond describes them in his simple, yet picturesque way. And that is one of the best qualities a suspense writer can have, the ability to put readers right there in the story, the action, and the adventure.
Clint Eastwood fans will gobble up DEAR DURWOOD, an action-thriller with a modern-day Western feel and cool, collected, and highly capable, Durwood Oak Jones will effortlessly charm readers with his rough and tumble resourcefulness and plain country manners.
~Lauren Napoli for IndieReader