Review for No Dice Santa Monica Mirror
Breaking news: Someone has murdered Santa Monica City Councilmember Kathleen Dyson. SMPD detective David Mason is on the case, but this case seems to be very tangled up in local politics. Dyson was a known opponent of the plan to build a casino in downtown Santa Monica. Her friend and fellow opponent, activist Ginger NcNair, fears the killer will come after her. Who could have done it? A well-known developer who stands to gain from the casino plan? A council colleague who switched his stand on the issue? A slimy publicist? A gang member? What dark secrets are lurking in this popular and allegedly progressive beach city?
Mar Preston’s “No Dice” is a new mystery novel set in contemporary Santa Monica, revolving around the familiar issues of land use and the struggle between new developers and old-time resident activists. The book gives us the viewpoints of two characters: Mason, a somewhat introspective cop with personal issues (his wife has left him; his daughter is trying to find friends; he’s lonely for a companion), and McNair, a thirty-something crusader for liberal causes who has reason to distrust the police. The story is fast-moving and suspenseful, but longtime Santa Monica residents will have fun trying to guess who certain characters might be based on. Numerous locations are mentioned, from Santa Monica Place to the Montana shopping district, from the outdoor Farmers Markets to a community meeting at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Not to bring up any spoilers here, but anyone who has sat through a meeting of the Santa Monica City Council will get a laugh from one outrageous scene involving a protest at a Council meeting.
At a book signing party at the Church in Ocean Park on May 21, Preston said that she has “a continuing fascination with the Santa Monica Police Department,” which inspired her to write this book. It was difficult, however, to get the police to give her some of the authentic information she needed. (For example, police are forbidden to discuss an ongoing investigation with reporters or the public). What did help was a 13-week class offered by the SMPD called “The Citizens’ Academy.” The class, Preston said, “gives a glimpse behind the curtain and explains why they do the things they do.”
Preston describes herself as having been “a political insider during Santa Monica’s rent control and living wage wars.” “No Dice” demonstrates her extensive research into Santa Monica and local Westside history. Mentioned are the gambling ships anchored off shore back in the 1940s (precedents to the proposed casino in the book); restrictive covenants on land use; the Tongva/Gabrieleno tribe’s quest for federal recognition; and the years of booming development of the downtown and east Santa Monica areas; prior to the current economic downturn.
Whether or not the reader wants to believe that evil greedy people might do the things that the villains in this book do, right here in Santa Monica, is a matter of each person’s perceptions of the local issues. But it is refreshing to read a book that takes place in the streets and venues that we locals know so well.
While Officer Mason isn’t a cynical quasi-poetic type like Phillip Marlowe, or beyond nasty like a James Ellroy character, he proves to be a likeable and believable hero, made sympathetic by his vulnerabilities. And Ginger McNair is not a typical damsel-in-distress. Without trying to spoil the ending, let’s just say that she proves as resourceful in a tight spot as James Bond might be.
That might be partly because Preston admits that she modeled some aspects of McNair on her own personality. “But I’m not six feet tall and blonde,” she said.
Preston has written a second Dave Mason thriller to be published later in 2011. She is currently working on a third murder mystery set in a California village.
Political Mystery Novel Set in Santa Monica
posted Jun. 4, 2011, 10:52:00 am
Source: Santa Monica Mirror
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What Readers Are Saying
Ginger McNair was furious when a hotly contested anti-casino initiative she was running was handed another blow because a city councilman reneged on his supporting vote. Shortly after the meeting Ginger was supposed to meet with Santa Monica, California councilwoman Kathleen Dyson, a strong supporter of the anti-casino campaign. When she arrived at Kathleen’s work place, she found the woman was dead and Ginger was assaulted by a mysterious intruder.
Santa Monica homicide detective Dave Mason and his partner are assigned to the case. Mason is struggling with the breakup of his marriage, but when he meets Ginger sparks begin to fly. In the meantime, the fight for a casino continues with billions of dollars at stake backed by real estate developers, politicians, and hotel and business owners who want the crowds, and money, the casinos will draw.
When a local paper states a witness saw who killed Dyson, Ginger realizes her life is in danger. Her father is a Range Master with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and her brother is a Sheriff’s deputy in the same precinct. They decided to provide support in addition to the coverage Mason is giving her.
Even with the increased amount of protection around her, Ginger disappears. Mason and his partner Delgado pull out all the stops as they try to find her before the killer strikes again.
No Dice is the first Dave Mason detective story written by Mar Preston. She has since written the follow-up Rip-Off. A third murder mystery set in her California town is in the works as of this writing.
A former Santa Monica political insider, Preston has written a story loosely based on her experience. The characters are relatable, and relationships are well developed and understandable without going into too much detail – a technique that can sometimes slow down the pace of a story.
The characters are dealing with work issues as well as personal relationship problems in a realistic real-life manner. In many books, readers see very little of the behind the scenes drama that goes on in families who are involved in such emotional issues as police work or politics. Preston wisely includes such issues which makes the characters seem like people we can relate to.
No Dice is an easy, fast-paced, enjoyable read. That the author has already continued the series is good news for Dave Mason fans.
A special thank you goes to Pertinacity Press and author Mar Preston for providing a complimentary copy of No Dice for our review. If you would like any of Ms. Preston’s books, they are available at Amazon.com.
Edie Dykeman, BellaOnline’s Mystery Books Editor
“Any first time novelist should be encouraged and anyone attempting a police procedural should be doubly encouraged: these books are damned difficult, a juggling act at the very least. Mar Preston, in charge of a ‘cast of thousands’ plus plot weaving, has executed this format very well. Each character is reasonably rounded with the two protagonists both likeable and believable. You want it to work for them.
I don’t know California or, closer up, Santa Monica but I have a fairly good picture of its underbelly politics now. Clearly the author has done her homework and has insider knowledge. This is a crime book with a conscience…not much of that about. So I salute it. “
~ Jac the Hack, London, England
By Diana M. Hockley “lacock2″ (Australia)
Preston immerses the reader in the hectic world of police procedural mystery which is sometimes confusing but aren’t unsolved murders always? Stick it out and enjoy the brusque language, original insight and surprisingly semi hard boiled prose from a female author who is not afraid to push the envelope.
Review: I am totally shocked that this is the author’s FIRST novel! It is such a fast paced who-dun-it, that I would have thought she had 5 or 6 books under her belt! Guess being a creative writing teacher really DOES give you the writing chops!You will be hooked from the first chapter of the tight story. Her characters are lively, true to life and you can’t beat real life for giving you an excellent backdrop to base a story on! The story has lots of twists and turns to keep you guessing. Even if you guess who the murder suspect is before the end, you’ll be flipping the pages quickly to see how they get caught! You’ll also be hoping there will be another book to follow- and there will be!If you’re looking for a new voice in the police procedural genre, check out Mar Preston! 4/28/12
“It’s clear the author knows a lot about what she writes both first hand and from thorough background investigation. We thoroughly enjoyed this book. Write more, Preston! “
Sarah Edwards, author (with Paul Edwards) of 16 books.
“If you favor characters like in Stone Barrington and Harry Bosch, you’ll love this book! We are avid Stuart Woods and Michael Connelly readers. We can’t wait for their next books to come out. Now we can’t wait for Preston’s next book. Preston has created a compelling and suspenseful plot with realistic but interesting characters, notably Detective David Mason, who you look forward to getting better acquainted with. We especially appreciated the authenticity of the characters as real-life human beings, not hyped-up super cops. This made both the story and the characters far more interesting than most in this genre. She also set the story in a context that is rich with reality by uncovering the in depth ins and outs of a community organization standing up to city politics and development lobby shenanigans, something we all suspect goes one, never quite want to believe, but feel validated to get a glimpse into. As you read it’s clear the author knows a lot about what she writes both first hand and from thorough background investigation. We thoroughly enjoyed this book. Write more, Preston! Quickly.”
Sarah Edwards, author (with Paul Edwards) of 16 books.
I was charmed by this novel – it’s fresh approach, clear writing and likeable, human characters. The heroine is a happy change from the usually alcoholic, wise-cracking, guilt-ridden and often injured, heroine of modern crime novels. The cop hero is a nice man who is not abusive, power-ridden or outrageously over-the-top sexy.
Storyline is easy to follow. Big business is trying to force a hither-to calm city into accepting the presence and resulting financial crushing of a huge casino. Protest groups are fighting hard to keep them out.
Murder is one person’s way of solving a problem and things go downhill from there.
The author knows her stuff. The political background, so often hard to follow, is told in a straightforward manner by the characters, making it easy for the reader to feel as though he or she is part of whichever group is working at any one time.
Highly recommended – Mar Preston is a novelist to watch and I am looking forward to the next Dave Mason novel.
“This is a very good book, with lots of suspense and characters I could really care about. I’m looking forward to Ms. Preston’s next book!”
“I couldn’t put this book down. I work at a community organizing nonprofit and was intrigued to find a murder mystery set in such a milieu. The scrappy nonprofit heroine and the harried city council members rang so true. So this book not only delivers the punch of a good whodunit, but it educates as well, sketching out the underside of how development, public policy and business work in a large metropolis. Which is what gives this book a meta message above and beyond it’s well rendered storyline…a lot of development shenanigans are like murder mysterys as in the fat cats get away with murder because no one’s paying attention. And justice isn’t just catching the bad guy, it’s pointing out the systemic injustice all around us and taking action to correct it. Preston takes this larger view, which is why this book rises above its murder mystery genre. She has clearly done her research around the issues dealt with in this book, be it real estate covenants, police procedure, or the physics of a shipping container rolling end over end downhill! The characters are well sketched out too, and Ginger and Mason’s perfectly pitched interactions made me think of Tony Hillerman with his troubled cops and strong wounded women. Preston’s insights into childhood bullying were an interesting subplot as well. This is clearly a writer with great promise, producing such a strong and impressive debut novel. I’m anxious to see what she’ll write next. Well worth reading.”
Trebor Healey, author of “Through It Came Bright Colors” and “Song of Pan.”
“I was charmed by this novel – it’s fresh approach, clear writing and likeable, human characters. The heroine is a happy change from the usually alcoholic, wise-cracking, guilt-ridden and often injured, heroine of modern crime novels. The cop hero is a nice man who is not abusive, power-ridden or outrageously over-the-top sexy.
The storyline is easy to follow. Big business is trying to force a hither-to calm city into accepting the presence and resulting financial crushing of a huge casino. Protest groups are fighting hard to keep them out. Murder is one person’s way of solving a problem and things go downhill from there.
The author knows her stuff. The political background, so often hard to follow, is told in a straightforward manner by the characters, making it easy for the reader to feel as though he or she is part of whichever group is working at any one time. Highly recommended – Mar Preston is a novelist to watch and I am looking forward to the next Dave Mason novel.”
Diana Hockley, author of “The Celibate Mouse” and “Naked Room.” Australia.
Midwest Book Review, The Mystery/Suspense Shelf, May 12, 2012
…”No Dice” is a gritty and fast-paced novel that shouldn’t be overlooked.”
By Harvey “Teach”
“The ending turned in a direction I hadn’t expected, and I like that in a mystery.”
“I can’t wait to read it again because I know I missed some of her cleverly crafted nuances in my haste to find out ‘who done it’. I hope she writes more mystery novels utilizing these main characters.”
“Her in-depth research into police work, how the police think and function; the story itself which kept me spellbound to the surprising end. Love her character development. A must for all lovers of mystery. “