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Monday, September 19, 2011

The Gentlemen's Hour, by Don Winslow (hardcover, $25)

Dude, this is a most excellent follow-up to The Dawn Patrol. Macking, even.

Returning to a lighter, more humorous style than the dark pieces he has been writing (e.g., Power of the Dog), Don Winslow brings us another story in the life of surf bum and private eye Boone Daniels.

Besides the Peter Pan-like boardriders, San Diego is home to Mexican drug cartels, real estate con men, American drug crazies, white supremacists, and lots of rich people. Boone tangles with the various groups when he is drafted to do investigative work for the attorneys defending a young man accused of murdering a surf legend, Kelly Kuhio. "K2" was an inspiration to many and a mentor to Boone, yet Boone is convinced that Corey Blasingame -- a spoiled, nasty little rich kid -- is innocent of murdering Kelly.

Complicating matters is another murder, this time it's the lover of the wife of another surfer. Boone had been hired by Dan Nichols to determine if his wife was having an affair. Soon after telling Dan the bad news, Boone learns that the lover has been murdered.

His involvement in the two murders puts Boone on the outs with the rest of the surfing community, including best friend and fellow surfer Johnny "Banzai" Kodani, the homicide detective in charge of both cases. Despite the alienation, Boone trudges forward, convinced that K2 himself would have urged Boone to trust his instincts.

"Gentlemen's Hour" refers to the second surf shift. Boone usually hangs out with the Dawn Patrol crew, the younger, more competitive surfers. The surfers of the Gentlemen's Hour are more laid back, older. When Boone is shunned by his own crew, he begins to hang with the older men, a sad endnote to Boone's surfing days, he thinks.

Don Winslow's story races along, but thankfully, it's not all about the plot. There are wonderfully eccentric characters, including a couple of the villains. I defy you not to enjoy the characterizations of Red Eddie, a good old, relocated Hawaiian boy who's the head of a dangerous mob, and his henchmen. Boone's reminiscences of Kelly carry the story into more tender, philosophical regions. The "Surfbonics" that the Dawn Patrol uses in their conversations is amusing and gives a good sense of community.

Finally, having grown up in Hawaii, I especially appreciated the surf talk and the rendering of Hawaiian pidgeon, both of which Winslow did very well.

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