Duffy Dombrowski is back for Round Three in OUT COLD by Tom Schreck. This time Duffy's taken a hard hit in sparring that knocked him unconscious. Instead of listening to his trusted trainer, Smitty, he sneaks off to another gym and takes a second lights-out blow. Maybe these blows are why Karl, Duffy's schizophrenic client, doesn't sound so crazy to Duffy when he starts running on about a government conspiracy to keep Americans afraid. Despite everyone's advice to the contrary, Duffy teams up with a "guy who...wore a Redskins helmet and meditated in the nude." They are off to fight domestic terrorism. And of course, Al the basset hound tags along for the ride.
If you can read this book without laughing until your sides hurt, I do believe you were born without a funny bone. Schreck is an absolute genius: he reels the reader in with irresistible humor and endearing characters then slips in a plot comprised of multiple social issues the reader can't help but latch on to. If mixed together incorrectly, this combination has the potential to be a lethal concoction, but Schreck's recipe stirs in just the right amount of each ingredient for a delicious read.
In college I remember a classmate asking the question during an English class discussion, "if a schizophrenic is alone on an island, is he still a schizophrenic?" I couldn't help but recall that question as I read OUT COLD. In each of Schreck's novels he challenges society's belief about an "outcast" group; in OUT COLD, Schreck is challenging the reader to closely examine his/her beliefs about people deemed to be "crazy." In addition, he's calling attention to the government's tactics to gain support through fear. Schreck never lays out clear cut answers to these issues, rather he reminds the reader that these issues aren't simply "black" or "white" like so many people would prefer them to be.
And of course, a book reviewed on Jen's Book Thoughts simply cannot be deemed great without amazing characters. Everyone needs a Fearsome Foursome in their lives somewhere. They are hysterically funny and a reminder not to sweat the small stuff. I find myself looking for them in the corner bar. I'm also convinced that one day I'm going to run into Duffy Dombrowski and learn that Schreck is writing non-fiction, not fiction novels. Schreck has created an entire cast of characters that the reader could probably identify in his or her own life. After all, who hasn't seen
"...the resident Goths. They're the wannabe angry teens trying to make a statement by being different - all of them being exactly the same different at the same time."
And who hasn't experienced being so embarrassed:
"I don't know the word for what I felt because embarrassed wasn't enough."
And the real star, Al the basset hound, is crafted from Schreck's own experiences with the breed. Al's mannerisms and personality are all basset, true to the bone. Al contributes to the humor as well as to the development of other characters. He is a priceless element of this series.
The Duffy Dombrowski series is a rare combination of entertainment and challenge. Go ahead; jump in the ring with Duffy because OUT COLD is another knock out for Tom Schreck.
OUT COLD (ISBN: 978-1-59080-622-7) will be released by Echelon Press in December 2009 and is available now for pre-order. The folks here or here or here would be more than happy to accomodate a pre-order for you!