________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 38 . . . . June 4, 2010


Love You to Death. (Rapid Reads).

Gail Bowen.
Victoria, BC: Raven Books/Orca, 2010.
94 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-262-0.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


A wise man once said ninety percent of life is just showing up. An hour before midnight, five nights a week, fifty weeks a year, I show up at CVOX radio. Our studios are in a concrete and glass box in a strip mall. The box to the left of us sells discount wedding dresses. The box to the right of us rents XXX movies. The box where I work sells talk radio – “ALL TALK/ALL THE TIME.” Our call letters are on the roof. The O in CVOX is an open, red-lipped mouth with a tongue that looks like Mick Jagger’s.

After I walk under Mick Jagger’s tongue, I pass through security, make my way down the hall and slide into a darkened booth. I slip on my headphones and adjust the microphone. I spend the next two hours trying to convince callers that life is worth living. I’m good at my job – so good that sometimes I even convince myself.


Charlie Dowhanuik (or as he’s known on air, Charlie D) hosts a late-night talk show called, “The World According to Charlie D.” Charlie D’s world is inhabited by people who have drawn the low cards in the game of life: a profoundly depressed teen who had been contemplated suicide, a gay athlete who has finally found the courage to come out, a man whose wife and daughters have been killed in a car accident, to name only three. These three have something else in common besides ongoing conversations with Charlie: all have died in suspicious circumstances, and Nova Langenegger, the show’s producer, has received copies of all three obituaries, each bearing a threatening message printed on an index card. Of course, late night talk shows get their share of crank callers and bizarre mailings. But after the suicide of one of Charlie’s regulars, Nova calls the police. “. . .this isn’t about a lonely guy who wants you to tell him it’s okay to have a cyberskin love doll as his fantasy date. There’s a murderer out there. A real murderer – not one of your Goth death groupies. . . .” And then, Nova hands Charlie the challenge: “The police want to use our show to flush out the killer.”

     The police psychologist theorizes that the killer is in love with Charlie – in a crazy, totally-obsessed way – that the killer believes that Charlie’s emotional resources have been depleted by his work, and that he needs help. Furthermore, his would-be lover believes that Charlie is sending her (?) a message to kill those of his clients who are particularly in desperate need of his support. Nine years of late-night radio have put Charlie in touch with those who live on the edge. He can recognize an erotomaniac when he hears one, and so, he dons his professional persona, “a guy who is cool, commanding and in charge” and spends the next hour and fifty-three minutes, flushing out the killer.

     I can tell you that you will read the entire book (it’s less than 100 pages) in two hours, not only because you can, but because you are compelled to do so. One of Canada’s best mystery novelists, Gail Bowen takes a concept and crafts a story that is tightly-paced and thoroughly gripping. Think of an episode of Law & Order without the ensemble cast (and without the commercials!), and that’s how this book moves. The characters are swiftly drawn, but they aren’t clichéd, and the dialogue is witty, gritty, and contemporary. Love You to Death is among the first four releases in Orca’s new series, “Rapid Reads,” and I think that it’s a great start. Not only will appeal to high school students who have read their way through “Orca Soundings” and want something a bit more challenging, but I am certain that Love You to Death will find an audience amongst capable readers who want and need a rapid read.

Highly Recommended.

A fan of Law & Order and a dedicated reader of mystery fiction, Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.