If you’re looking for a suspenseful, often humorous page-turner to die for, look no further than Stuff to Die For by Don Bruns. Best buddies James Lessor and Skip Moore, stuck in dead-end jobs and with large college loans from Sam and Dave University to pay off, decide to use the $12,000 James’ aunt leaves him as an inheritance - not to pay off the loans, but to buy a truck and start up a moving business. James is convinced that they’ll make a million dollars in a year and talks Skip (Eugene) into being his partner. The two regret their decision when, on their very first job, they notice a manila envelope leaking, open it, and see a severed finger inside with a class ring on it. They soon find themselves way in over their heads, sought after by Cuban terrorists called Los Historicos who want to overthrow Fidel Castro.
The intrepid duo of Lessor and Moore might like to think of themselves as adult versions of the Hardy Boys, but one reviewer I checked out thought they compared more closely with Harry and Lloyd of Dumb and Dumber. The predicaments they get into are often comical, but James and Skip remind me more of characters from the underrated TV comedy It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. They are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, but they are far smarter than Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels’ big-screen alter egos.
Skip’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, Emily (Em), is from a wealthy family, and she lines up the first job for the pair: “Skip, there’s this lady, Jackie Fuentes, and she’s got a ton of stuff she needs to store. You could haul it for her.” Jackie Fuentes has thrown her husband Ricardo (Rick) out because he was cheating on her with a young blond, and because she suspected he was involved in terrorist activities. She wants to get rid of all of his stuff. There’s a lot of humor laced into the plotline. For instance, after so easily and quickly landing the Fuentes job, he muses:
There it was. We hadn’t even handed out the first business card, and we already had
a customer. This was going to be easier than I thought.
The job turns out to be anything but easy. The truck doesn’t have a rear-view mirror, only side ones, making it difficult to back up. James runs into the storage facility as he tries to back up, and that’s when the boxes of Mr. Fuentes’ mail spill out, along with the aforementioned fateful manila envelope. The word “stuff” recurs quite a bit, and often to comic effect, such as when Skip says: “Body parts, James. Who would have thought that body parts would be part of someone’s stuff?”
Should they go to the police? Should they tell Mrs. Fuentes, or perhaps Ricardo Fuentes? After all, the letter they also find in the envelope suggests that more body parts might be on the way, and Mrs. Fuentes hasn’t shown any interest in the mail thus far. The letter reads:
“We ask you to reconsider your decision. If you agree with us, we will give you
the rest in relatively good shape.”
They meet with Mr. Fuentes, who offers them five grand to check into things further and see if the finger might have come from his son. His son once saved Skip’s life, and Skip feels indebted to him. The two self-styled Hardy Boys get more and more entangled in the Fuentes’ lives, and when they open another piece of mail and discover a list of rich donors who think they’re investing in a chain of Cuban coffeehouses, they attract the unwelcome attention of Cubans who want the list and will do anything they can to get it. As James says: “It’s like a disease with us. We just feel compelled to open envelopes addressed to Ricardo Fuentes.”
Stuff to Die For is a fast-paced, fun-filled novel from beginning to end. Don Bruns, who won in the mystery/suspense/thriller category of the “Best Books 2006 Awards” for the novel South Beach Shakedown, is sure to increase his fan base further with Stuff to Die For. Highly recommended.
[Author website: www.donbrunsbooks.com]