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by David Dvorkin

Wildside Press, 2000. Trade paper, $15.95.
ISBN 1-58715-126-X
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Reviewed by Christine I. Speakman

"Something happened with Tom Hamilton that has happened with most of my characters. I created him cold-bloodedly...then he came to life, became very real and three-dimensional to me. I cared about his history and his future and even -- strange though this may sound to non-writers -- his feelings. I started out knowing what I didn't want: a superman (e.g., Spenser), or a policeman, or a tough guy of any kind. I wanted Tom to be at a physical disadvantage, to be have to rely on his wits..."

This is what author David Dvorkin wrote regarding his fictional character Tom Hamilton in THE CAVARADOSSI KILLINGS. It didn't take long before I, too, was caring and intrigued by this character.

Who is Tom Hamilton? Twenty-odd years ago Tom left his hometown of Ransom, Colorado; his abusive father; and those who never accepted him. Now he's back. During his absence from Ransom, he's been living in Chicago under an assumed name. Most of his past is shredded in secrecy, something Mr. Dvorkin slowly releases in bits and pieces throughout the novel. Part of what draws you into this story is this secrecy -- why has Tom returned to Ransom after all these years? Is he hiding or escaping for his past, again?

A feeling of melancholy surrounds the idea of returning home and running into our past. There's something surprising at seeing the stars of our youth now in their middle years. We may have expected more from them; they expected less of us. This is the company of people Tom's drawn into. THE CAVARADOSSI KILLINGS is a character-strong novel. Having a character, like Tom, come back into a social scene he hasn't been apart of for so long allows us an opportunity to witness the changes time brings. A divorced woman, the cheerleader Tom dreamed about, now more accepting of him and herself. Tom's high school hero, now seen as a pompous jerk. The girl, who once laughed in his face when he asked her out on a date, married to the jerk. It would have been easy to turn these characters into the tired old caricatures we've seen in other novels; however, each has been created with very human frailties. Nothing is contrived or faked. Read them closely and watch human error show itself once more.

The opera "Tosca" sets the stage for the killings in THE CAVARADOSSI KILLINGS. An amateur opera company is attempting this opera. Unfortunately, during the execution of Cavaradossi, the actor portraying him is shot and killed. The next actor is seriously injured. Tom's friends, heavily involved in the production, are suspects. Tom finds himself right in the middle of everything, with a cop who wants no help from an amateur.

It is the quiet unassuming character, Tom, which has me waiting for the next novel. If there's any weakness in this novel, it's the unanswered questions that leave us wanting more

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