BOOK REVIEW: STUFF TO DIE FOR
Stuff To Die For is a funny, suspenseful, fast-paced book that reveals the worst that can happen when a couple of community college goobers decide to try out a career in the fast-paced world of u-hauling and storage of other people's stuff. It's a novel that is at turns humorous and full of twists and turns, a book that will keep you reading until late into the night and will make you yearn to read a sequel to it, which hopefully the author, Don Bruns, has in the works.
The intrepid duo of Lessor and Moore might like to think of themselves as adult versions of the Hardy Boys, but one reviewer I checked out thought they compared more closely with Harry and Lloyd of Dumb and Dumber. The predicaments they get into are often comical, but James and Skip remind me more of characters from the underrated TV comedy It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. They are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, but they are far smarter than Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels' big-screen alter egos.
Skip's on-again, off-again girlfriend, Emily (Em), is from a wealthy family, and she lines up the first job for the pair: "Skip, there's this lady, Jackie Fuentes, and she's got a ton of stuff she needs to store. You could haul it for her." Jackie Fuentes has thrown her husband Ricardo (Rick) out because he was cheating on her with a young blond, and because she suspected he was involved in terrorist activities. She wants to get rid of all of his stuff. There's a lot of humor laced into the plotline. For instance, after so easily and quickly landing the Fuentes job, he muses:
There it was. We hadn't even handed out the first business card, and we already had a customer. This was going to be easier than I thought.
The job turns out to be anything but easy. The truck doesn't have a rear-view mirror, only side ones, making it difficult to back up. James runs into the storage facility as he tries to back up, and that's when the boxes of Mr. Fuentes' mail spill out, along with the aforementioned fateful manila envelope. The word "stuff" recurs quite a bit, and often to comic effect, such as when Skip says: "Body parts, James. Who would have thought that body parts would be part of someone's stuff?"
Should they go to the police? Should they tell Mrs. Fuentes, or perhaps Ricardo Fuentes? After all, the letter they also find in the envelope suggests that more body parts might be on the way, and Mrs. Fuentes hasn't shown any interest in the mail thus far. The letter reads:
"We ask you to reconsider your decision. If you agree with us, we will give you the rest in relatively good shape."
They meet with Mr. Fuentes, who offers them five grand to check into things further and see if the finger might have come from his son. His son once saved Skip's life, and Skip feels indebted to him. The two self-styled Hardy Boys get more and more entangled in the Fuentes' lives, and when they open another piece of mail and discover a list of rich donors who think they're investing in a chain of Cuban coffeehouses, they attract the unwelcome attention of Cubans who want the list and will do anything they can to get it. As James says: "It's like a disease with us. We just feel compelled to open envelopes addressed to Ricardo Fuentes." If you enjoy reading quirky, off-beat thrillers with characters who find themselves enwrapped in situations that there seems to be no way out of, you'll love reading Stuff To Die For. The characters are brilliantly realized, the writing is fresh, and the action is furious. It would make for a perfect Christmas gift, or one for any holiday or gift-giving reason, for the mystery lover in your house--or, for yourself, for that matter.
REVIEWED BY DOUGLAS R. COBB
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