Book Review: Deadly Dance: A Modern Tragicomedy

Deadly Dance, a suspense thriller, by Darville Knowles
Deadly Dance, A Modern Tragicomedy

By Darville Knowles

ISBN: 0-9719749-8-5
Milligan Books

Reviewed by Maxine E. Thompson

Do nothing secretly; for Time sees and hears all things, and discloses all. -Hipponous. Frag. 280. Sophocles

Deadly Dance, a sprawling debut novel by Dr. Darville Knowles, spins a satisfying tale of suspense, ruthless ambition, and lives gone awry. You will experience such a tsunami of emotions — that is, you will laugh, you will cry, and you will be held so spellbound in its grip — that you’ll feel like you stepped off the big Kahuna when you read the last page.

Although there are many moments of comic relief, Deadly Dance reminds one of the Greek Tragedy, Oedipus, wherein the audience used to sit on the edge of its seat, awash in a wave of terror/pity/relief as they watched Oedipus gouge out his eyes. (Oedipus, unknowingly, killed his father, King Laius of Thebes, and married his mother, Jocasta. When he learns the truth, he blinds himself in despair.) More than likely, as the king fell from the heights, the audience experienced a delicious thrill as they watched Oedipus’s life crumble around him, knowing that, as the old saying goes, the gods have clay feet.

The truth is, we have not changed much since that time. We secretly LOVE to hear how politicians/celebrities/movie stars are caught having affairs or driving drunk. Deadly Dance speaks to the need of human beings to rejoice in the “gods'” downfall.

The novel opens with Dr. Evander Parker, a noted psychiatrist in Florida, on what starts out as an ordinary day. By the end of Chapter One, you are caught up in a virtual blood bath, a medical life or death drama, which foreshadows that Dr. Parker’s perfect little life is about to unravel. (As part of this well-crafted novel, the climax also mirrors a similar blood bath in a confrontation between good and evil.)

What is interesting about all the characters are their different miscommunications and missed cues. Each character holds secrets that the other characters are unaware of, and which are centrifugal to the plot. In the end, though, the truth does come out.

At the same time, Deadly Dance is a sneak preview of a modern day calamity. It depicts what it is to fall from economic grace to social pillory, a plight which we’ve seen plenty of in the media lately. Deadly Dance also shows how the media can destroy a person before proven guilty. In addition, this story revisits the premise that ruthless ambition destroys, which can’t be visited enough in literature.

The title, “Deadly Dance,” implies the symbiotic pas de deux between the doctor/patient relationship and the manipulation of that relationship.

For want of a better word, many of the main characters are wonderfully flawed. Whether they are on the psychiatrist’s couch, or on the other side of the desk, they are all on the edge, which makes for good story telling. There is an underlying thread of desperation running throughout Deadly Dance, which speaks to the human yearning to be loved. This, and its quirky cast of characters, are what really appealed to me.

Meet the wife, Cassie. Although she can be painted as a villainess, several underlying themes suggest that she is both victim and heroine.

Sal Roselli, the impact character, is a complex mobster, who will do anything to manipulate others to his greedy ends.

Midge, a diminutive person, Sal’s henchman, has a propensity for violence. His favorite weapon of choice is a tire rod.

Enter Taylor Nash. A streetwise, hardboiled private eye detective. He remains somewhat of a mystery until he does his “deadly dance.”

The coming together of these disparate characters, and many more colorful minor ones, are representative of the microcosm, which reflects the macrocosm. The truth is, we no longer live in a monoethnic world, and it is echoed in literature such as Deadly Dance. Yet, at the same time, this is a universal tale, wherein Dr. Knowles looks at the human meaning of our foibles and our triumphs.

What is unique about this novel is that it travels across a multi-cultural cross section of society and exotic places. Unlike many novels, it does not just address one ethnic group, but its major characters are from different racial backgrounds. Parker, the lead character, is Caucasian. His guardian angel, Nash, is African American. Nash’s and Parker’s relationship can be viewed as symbolic of the mutually interdependent relationship between the races.

The same way Walter Mosley’s mysteries make social commentaries, Darville Knowles’s suspense novel addresses many concerns in today’s society. Racketeering, drugs, murder, infidelity, and medical malpractice, just to name a few.

Underlying the theme of fate, there also lies the theme of integration, one of the largest themes in American Literature since the twentieth century. This integration involves two seemingly different things that cross the lines of sex, class, race and region.

With a novel that covers such a wide range of humanity, I eagerly look forward to Dr. Knowles next book. If it’s anything like Deadly Dance, it will be another provocative read.

About the Author

A former social worker of 23 years, I have published 2 novels, The Ebony Tree and No Pockets in a Shroud, A Place Called Home. I have had numerous short stories, articles and essays published in magazines, anthologies and e-zines. Recently I began an on-line column to promote the works of new and self-published writers. The column is called, On The Same Page. Since 1999, I have written book reviews and columns across the Internet. Since 3/05/02, I have hosted an on-line radio show on called “On The Same Page”. The show is aired on Tuesdays at 6:00 a.m. Pacific Time, 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time, and Saturday 1:00 p.m.

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