Dennis Hart is a funny man. He has a style that seems to be between Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard in the witty thriller department. It can be argued that the plot in Gulf Boulevard may be slightly thin but it is still an entertaining read and it is full of pithy humor. I guess it is ostensibly a mystery but it isn't a whodunnit as much as it is a whogonnadoit. But a funny mystery it is.
So what makes Gulf Boulevard so fun? Like I said, Dennis Hart is quite clever in throwing out hilarious situations and clever repartees left and right. I mean, you gotta love a parrot that can recite every line, especially the obscene ones, from Scarface. But the crowning achievement is the character of Jason Najarian. Jason is a man after my own heart. He's a dreamer whose dream comes true. A sharp but impulsive fellow whose digs and pranks sometimes get the better of him. (Number one tip: Do not throw tomatoes at gangsters) The plot pretty much sinks or swims based on your feelings toward Jason. In my case, Jason wins the day.
It's a good premise. Jason Nazarian hits the lottery jackpot thanks to some M&Ms and moves to Florida to be a rich hermit. However it doesn't work out that way thanks to a busybody real estate agent, a hot Native-American femme fatale, a gold-digging ex-wife, and, most importantly, a mafia hit man who happens to be Jason's neighbor. And here is where the novel hits a minor snag. As good as the premise is, it meanders a bit around the middle and doesn't really pick up steam until nearly the end. Despite all the humor, I was hoping for a little more intensity.
One of my writing teachers told me that the middle makes or breaks a novel. Here, it doesn't break it. The author is too good for that to happen. But as it is obvious that Hart is a really good writer, I was hoping for one out of the ball park. However, being his first novel, there's plenty to be proud of. There is going to be a sequel (of course) so I have high hopes for Hart's next opus.