Sam Slater and Amelia Ryan are back in this surprising sequel to Last of the Seals. Former San Francisco Seals player, Sam Slater, is still adjusting to life post-baseball when he's hired to find out why wealthy, politically active Arthur Bolender jumped to his death from the Golden Gate Bridge. All who knew him insist Arthur would never commit suicide, including his much younger, sexy socialite wife, Maggie.
The key to the mystery appears to be an old Victorian-style home that the Bolenders owned, but Maggie knew nothing about. As Sam and his TWA stewardess girlfriend Amelia follow the clues, they discover a plot more frightening than they could ever imagine. As they close in, the people with the most to lose are determined to put a stop to Sam's investigation.
Like its predecessor, Deadly Plunge is a mix of mystery, murder, and history. Messel uses his first-hand knowledge of San Francisco and late 1950s American culture, to create a novel that moves along at a steady pace. Filled with historical photos and numerous references to pop culture icon, Elvis, Messel does a fine job of bringing the era in which Sam and Amelia work and play to life. The romance between these two characters is subtle enough that it doesn't take away from the mystery, but it does share some of the limelight. It's also a sweet romance. While the passion is increasing as Sam and Amelia get to know each other, there isn't any hanky panky.
While it's hard not to like Sam and Amelia, I still feel like I don't know them very well. As with the first book, Deadly Plunge is very plot-driven. You're not diving into these characters heads to figure out what makes them tick. The writing style isn't my favorite. It's much more telling than showing, even when historical details are shared that paint a great picture for the reader. The third person narrator is so pushy that he tells you what the historical places mentioned as part of the storyline are used for in present day. That can pull a reader out of the story. Perhaps this style comes from Messel's years as a reporter, columnist and news editor for a daily newspaper. I could see how it would work in journalism, but it doesn't work for me in fiction.
I was thrilled, however, to see the return of Janet, Sam's secretary and the Steeles. I love all of them, so it was a delight to know they weren't one-book characters. I hope we see them again in the next book. Janet seems underutilized to me, so I would like to see her play a more significant role as the series moves forward.
Finally, the plot had what I felt was a flaw. I don't want to give too much away, but in a nutshell, the fact that Sam's buddy Vince, who is a cop, continued to take a backseat in the investigation even when it appeared to have international implications, didn't seem realistic to me. I would think he would be getting the more than decade-old CIA involved pronto. And even if Vince didn't act, Sam must have realized he was in over his head and had to contact the proper authorities. I am willing to be proved wrong on this point, but it bothered me the entire time I read the book.
The majority of the reviews for both books have been fabulous, so this murder mystery definitely has appeal for many. Feel free to check out some of the reviews on Amazon and decide if you want to give Deadly Plunge a try.