STARRED REVIEW
May 01, 2020

Cheap Heat

By Daniel M. Ford

Jack Dixon is not a conventional PI, at least by the standards of your average mystery novel. He’s strong but has no stomach for violence, and while a glass of good bourbon won’t go unappreciated, he jonses more often for apple slices dipped in almond butter.

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Jack Dixon is not a conventional PI, at least by the standards of your average mystery novel. He’s strong but has no stomach for violence, and while a glass of good bourbon won’t go unappreciated, he joneses more often for apple slices dipped in almond butter. Work takes him on the road when a teammate from his college wrestling days who’s since turned professional starts receiving threats; his character, “U.S. Grant,” rips up Confederate flags in the ring, and not everyone is a fan. Now Jack has his back, but life in the “squared circle” (a wrestling slang term for the wrestling ring) may prove deadly to them both. Cheap Heat leaves it all on the mat.

Daniel Ford’s second Jack Dixon novel carries over a bit from Body Broker, his series debut. Jack gets around on his motorcycle, but the roar of a hog engine puts him on high alert thanks to a prior deadly run-in with a biker gang. Depictions of the pro wrestling circuit are grimy and depressing but manage to convey the thrill and glory of a good match—the ring announcer/chaperone for the wrestlers is a minor character juicy enough to take up a book of her own. Good food and good company are healing for Jack, but he trades the solitary claustrophobia of his houseboat for a series of cruddy motel rooms on this job.

The conclusion involves a showdown that pulls a thread from the first book and ties both stories together, then blows a hole in what we think is coming next. There will be a third volume, thankfully, because we could all use more stories about a secretly shy, carb-counting hero. Cheap Heat contains no cheap thrills; there’s a big heart and quick mind at the helm.

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Cheap Heat

Cheap Heat

By Daniel M. Ford
Santa Fe Writers Project
ISBN 9781733777711

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