Monday, August 24, 2015

Life is Never Easy in Desiree Prosapio's MATCHBOOK

Last post we discussed in one book that current and rather divisive topic - illegal immigration.  Since we're on sensitive issues, why not discuss another dicey subject for today's post?

That of the plight of the homeless.

You may have your idea and ideals all wrapped up in a nice big bow, however this is another issue that has no real easy answers.  There are a myriad reasons people and families end up on the streets - and none of them are pretty.

So with that in mind, let's experience life on the street through the pages of Desiree Prosapio's recent psychological thriller release MATCHBOOK.  Take a deep breath.  Ready?  Set?  Dive in!

Book Blurb:
"I didn't have the attitude for the world's oldest profession. Or the shoes."

Meet Carol Lassiter, wisecracking, streetwise heroine of Matchbook. Emotionally lost after her daughter Ella's alleged suicide, Carol goes deep underground with no plans of resurfacing. But when a matchbook with a phone number scrawled inside is dropped into her "donations" box, Carol is plunged into a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a mystery man who dangles a dramatically different story of Ella's death. But could he have a more sinister agenda? Carol wanders the underbelly of the city in search of the truth—and a nice rum and Coke—until Ella's secrets catch up with her and she must question her tenuous sanity.

Set on the streets of San Antonio, Matchbook is a compelling psychological thriller, as witty and entertaining as it is gripping.

A psychological thriller that will take you on an emotionally immersive ride with hope, friendship, humor, and gripping action set on the streets of San Antonio.

My Review:
Some heavy material here, folks.  Even so, there are moments of witty humor - Carol hasn't completely lost herself to the mean streets of homelessness and despair yet. 

After losing her daughter in a supposed heroin overdose, Carol's world crumbles.  The police close the case, but a mother's heart can't let it rest - especially because Ella was always championing those lost to drugs and booze.  Ella use drugs?  Not a chance.  So what really happened?

A year later, Carol is destitute after spending everything she had on a private investigator, whose only interest in the case was milking a grieving mother dry.  The mortgage turned upside down.  The credit cards maxed out.  Then the proverbial final straw hit the haystack and Carol lost her job.

Whoosh!  In one fell swoop, Carol is thrust into the streets.  Two years later, she's finally learned a few things about survival - if you want to call it that.  But she's jarred from her bottled bereavement when someone leaves a book of matches in her donation box while she lay passed out on the sidewalk.

Inside is a phone number.  On the line is a voice.  Something familiar about it niggles the dark recesses of her mind, but Carol isn't sure she's ready to tackle the demons that surface until the voice mentions the one person she can't forget.

"...I knew Ella.  I know what happened..."

When the voice begins to lead her on a path around San Antonio, retracing the last moments of her daughter's life, Carol's world is once again turned upside down - and this time, she may not have the strength to claw her way back from the truth.

Like I said - some heavy material here, however presented with some colorful characters to keep Carol teetering on the edge to avoid falling over the cliffs into insanity.  We're immediately thrust into the homeless world in the opening pages then follow along with Carol's discovery of what happened to her daughter.  A nice job of showing, weaving the past into the story along the way and making Carol a sympathetic figure without making her a pathetic soul.  There's still humanity and a tenor of true strength beneath that hardened exterior.  The world hasn't claimed her yet.

Point-of-view stays with Carol in first person, and we get a clear picture of who she is now and gradually see who she used to be.  Along the way we get to see several of her fellow homeless, Maurice being my absolute favorite.  He was such a hoot! 

Though the plot was mostly engaging, the pace was uneven and plodding at times - not a true thriller and more in line with the suspense/mystery genre.  This uneven pacing was especially the case once we finished Part One and switched over to Part Two.  For the first several scenes of P2, it felt like a different novel entirely, which pulled this reader from the story for far too long and caused me to almost quit reading.  However, eventually the main storyline did pick back up, though it remained somewhat disjointed.

The ending was a bit of a disappointment.  We had the old hat of the tired and overused antagonist's reveal where he explains why he did it - which was really no surprise.

Content Warning:  Some occasional rough language, but used sparingly.  The subject matter of homelessness and drug/alcohol abuse probably would be too heavy for young teens, but older teens (16+) might be okay if they enjoy reading about deep subjects and a middle-aged mother's insights.

Overall a thought-provoking read, but not a thriller.  A definite genre misclassification.  Good POV and characterization with nice showing are pluses.  I really enjoyed the first half of the novel, however very uneven pacing in the second half and a trite ending leave me with a rating of three stars.

Pick up a copy at Amazon.

Author Bio:
Desireé Prosapio is an award-winning writer, humorist, and a force for good in the universe. She writes in multiple genres including mystery, thriller, humor, and parenting.

In life, Desireé is novel, yet approachable; weird, but not in a way that frightens small children or dogs. She has, at one point in her life worked in a planetarium, been a test rider on the world's tallest waterslide, jumped out of a perfectly functioning airplane, and ridden a bucking horse across a field without being thrown (though it was touch-and-go for a few moments).

Her novels strike a chord with readers by creating a compelling connection between readers and the characters who live in her work; characters whose words linger in the night air like passionate fireflies, seeking union with the like-minded.

And they are page turners to boot.

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