Saturday, July 30, 2011

Shuffling Through the Clues to Find Redemption 'Waist Deep' in the Big Muddy

Review: WAIST DEEP (Kindle Edition 2011)
Author: Frank Zafiro

This story takes place in the mythical town of River City (sorta, because it's based on Spokane, WA, as we know from other books about it by the author Frank Zafiro, who only writes under that name, because his real name is Frank Scalise, and ... hey, what's with all the fake names? :) But I digress ...). The main character, Stefan Kopriva, was once a River City police officer, but he left the force under less than ideal circumstances. In fact, you could say he was disgraced.

To say that Stefan is wounded isn't saying nearly enough. He not only suffers physically, from old gunshot wounds and a knee injury that made me wince just to read about it, but he endures mental and emotional damage due to a young girl's death for which he blames himself. It was her death that led to his departure from the police force.

So ... despite his disabilities and not having a car (River City is a pretty small town, thank God), he shuffles over to a hockey game and gets into it with a really stoo-pid and loud drunk, for reasons related to honor and showing what a basically decent guy he is and all. Then he ends up in the hoosegow. Almost. Except the security chief, Matt Sinderling, doesn't press charges. But he does have a request for Stefan. He would like to hire Stefan to find his missing 16-year-old daughter, Kris, who's run away. She's interested in acting and has run away to become a big star. Apparently.

Stefan would like nothing better than to simply say no and walk shuffle away. He'd rather lay back in an easy chair, drink a beer or two (or three or four) and forget about the whole thing. Except that he's a recovering alcoholic and the beer part would be so wrong. So laying back would do just fine, thanks.

However, when Stefan sees the photo of Kris, he sees a 16-year-old girl going on 25 years. Maybe older. This kid is no innocent little girl, but Matt is blind to that. He's so naive that all he sees is his little girl when he looks at that picture. So Stefan reluctantly agrees to take Matt's money and look for Kris, even though he's not a licensed private investigator, he can barely move and he doesn't even own a freaking car.

Thereafter, Stefan is forced to do (the E Street) shuffle all around town looking for clues. Because that's how he moves. He also catches taxi cabs now and then. But not too often, because Stefan isn't exactly rolling in dough. So he can't offer huge tips, so cabbies aren't exactly in love with him.

Now, Stefan goes through the logical motions and I won't spoil it for you by telling you what those are, but WAIST DEEP is a hard-hitting story of a flawed hero trying to exorcise his demons. The plot is suspenseful, and includes fight scenes that make you wonder how Stefan manages to shuffle anywhere at all, afterward. :)

And while the subject matter explores dark moral territory, it's arguably not horribly shocking compared to certain real life situations taking place today. The horror is more in what might come afterward based on Kris' choices. This is where Stefan can possibly help most.

Further, in the best hardboiled tradition, finding the truth involves unearthing the scum from beneath the veneer of respectability.

Anyway, thank goodness Stefan has old friends on the River City police force. Otherwise, he'd probably be royally screwed.

The question is, will he be able to see the job through? The guy's almost too crippled for words in every possible sense. Will he get what he needs most? Oh, what's that word? Not food stamps. He's poor, but not that poor. It's what you do with food stamps. Redeem them! Will he get redemption? Can Stefan redeem himself? This is the question.

There's also a possible love interest in the form of Cassie, a barista with a Mona Lisa smile at a local cafe. Stefan really likes her, but seems to have trouble articulating these feelings. Can he overcome his insecurities and find love (or even friendship) with her? Another question. Hey, they both like coffee! They have common grounds. *groan*

And, BTW, Matt ends up lending Stefan a car. Thank God!

PS: Kopriva ... is that Polish? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure that Stefan was born in the USA? Get it? :)

PPS: Did I mention that I really enjoyed the book? Stefan rocks!

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