Author: Harry James Krebs

Publisher: Peak City Publishing

ISBN: 978-1935711360


Vengeance is Mine, a mystery by Harry James Krebs, is hardly Biblical as its title might suggest. It’s a thriller, cute and gruesome. Gruesome because it has mystery author Benjamin Tucker in pursuit of a serial killer who beheads his victims with a sawzall – a power tool with a reciprocating blade. Just to add to the gore, the killer decapitates one victim, coincidentally Tucker’s ex wife, while she is still alive. That’s enough to send the most hardened cynic on the Raleigh, NC, homicide squad puking all the way to the john.

But wait, Vengeance is Mine is really cute too, just for the sake of contrast. Benjamin Tucker, a remarkably resilient man, recovers from a decade and a half long marriage in a matter of months with no emotional hangover except for anger over the demands his ex makes about money. Not that the money is a problem to him. On the rebound, he married one of the wealthiest women in the state who puts him on a $10,000 a month allowance, signs in at the most prestigious country club in the Southeast, buys him a new Jaguar and gifts him a $30,000 Roles. Wow! Right? Lucky stiff. Man!

His new wife is not only really, really rich – estimates run in the half to a whole billion dollar range – but she is drop dead gorgeous. She is so dang pretty that as CEO of the Marshak Department Store chain, she models the fashions for the catalogue. Why pay a million bucks for a model when the boss can do it. And she really loves Tucker. Met him when he was a drink waiter at a fund raiser she was sponsoring. He walks right up to her, the hostess – how about them cahoonas – and she agrees to drive her Bentley (no less) to a greasy spoon diner where the cook greets customers with obscenities. (The coffee, by the way, was terrible.)

Needless to say, Tucker is also in love. Oh boy is he in love. Not only that, he wants to adopt his wife’s daughter as his own. She is a perky, sensible 14 years old who totally loves her stepdad. Tucker has a daughter the same age. Get this, his daughter and his stepdaughter are great pals. No adolescent problems in this household, two divorces – a his and a hers – not withstanding. Just proves that kids from broken homes can make it through anything, divorcing parents hardly more difficult than a mild case acne.

Tucker may be in love, but it doesn’t keep him from going to bed with a gorgeous redhead from the FBI who was also assigned to the case. Amazing how the FBI recruits these gals isn’t it. They eschew careers in modeling and show business just to chase crooks. Tucker may be alert, intrepid and unrelenting, but it doesn’t keep him from getting totally blitzed and passing out one night when he knows that killer is after him or the redhead. The guy just has trouble more than most with women and booze.

And then, of course, there’s Oscar. Oscar is the family wiener dog whose legs on one side are shorter than the other which causes the poor critter to wobble around almost out of control, a defect that has him falling into the estate swimming pool where, yes, he goes wee-wee. Whenever the author needs a break in the narrative, out trots Oscar.

A certain “oh-yeah-right” syndrome overtakes the reader about a third of the way through the book because it is a double size wad of chewing gum for the brain. The characters are so far off the chart that they cannot be believed. All the more regrettable because Harry James Krebs can really write.

The construction of his plot is textbook perfect. A prologue sets the hook and nearly every chapter ends with a cliff hanger predicament. The tension builds to the very end because the killer, once caught on film, resembles our hero, Benjamin Tucker, so much that people mistake the killer for the detective. The dialogue is crisp, even witty at places, but it all comes to naught because the most readers of voting age will find the characters have only comic book depth. Mechanically near perfect, the book has no soul.

I don’t like writing reviews that are this critical of a fellow author’s work. Perhaps I miss the point. Perhaps there’s a genre out that makes no pretense at being taking seriously as literature, one in which readers don’t give a flip on the human dimension in a story or an engaging degree of realism. Vengeance is Mine falls just a few percentage points short of being a satire, a parody on the popular mystery genre with a superhero. Somehow, however, I don’t think that is what the author had in mind.


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