For this month’s book group selection, we had to read Three Deuces Down by Keith Donnelly. This is a thriller set in East Tennessee. Knoxville, TVA, the Smokies, Tri-City area, I-40 and I-81 get mentioned quite a bit. But our PI protagonist, Donald Youngblood takes us all over the world, from New York to Ireland and then to Colombia.
If you like thrillers, this is a good one. Of course, with this genre, you will have to expect that somebody disappears, somebody gets killed (at least one, right?), somebody hooks up, and somebody gets philosophical.
This is the first in a series of mysteries featuring Donald Youngblood, a Wall Street whiz kid turned private investigator in a small town in East Tennessee.
We knew the author would come to our group meeting so we were excited and on our best behavior. We have shred to pieces Pulitzer-prize winners in the recent months, so we tried hard not to criticize the book. Instead, we asked questions like, “How do you write? Do you make an outline? Do you know how the book ends before you start the first chapter? Where is Mountain Center – the small town where Youngblood’s office and home are located? How much of you is in Youngblood?” etc.
It turns out, Mr. Donnelly put a pin on the map on I-81 where there is no town and said, “This is where Mountain Center will be.” That way, he could write about people driving one hour to Gatlinburg, one and a half hour to Knoxville and so on. The investigator’s lake house plan describes the author’s personal home on Ski Mountain Road in Gatlinburg. Mary, the blonde goddess who steals Donald’s heart, is based on his daughter-in-law.
It was fun to learn more about how a fiction writer hones his craft. It was a pleasure to meet Mr. Donnelly, who makes his own croutons and can whip up a really tasty Caesar salad – just like Donald Youngblood.
The snappy dialogues in this detective novel made it hard for me to get back into my next book, but hey, nobody said this was going to be easy.