You know, this may not have been the best book to read during a fit of insomnia. Yeah, that was me… awake at 4:00am reading about giant killer mutant bed bugs… in bed. Yup. Soooo not easy to fall back asleep after that!
Allen Dusk‘s “Shady Palms” follows the sordid and (for lack of a better term) shady characters that frequent the Shady Palms Motel, a sleazy, decaying, no-tell motel in the worst part of town. This is what I call a mash-up book because it tries to tie in a bit of everything. It’s about the foul criminal underbelly in a major city gone awry. Add a terrorist plot, toss in a couple government acronyms, grow some mutated bugs, throw in a little public servant corruption, and have some drama from the “woe is me” bad girls and boys trying to do better. This one had it all… and did we mention giant killer mutant bed bugs??
Author Allen Dusk walks us through “Shady Palms” a character at a time, starting with the terrorist. He’s a very important, albeit minor, character. Aside from some amazingly unrealistic character flaws, the psyche seemed disturbingly accurate. While there were quite a few starts to interesting character development that seemingly went nowhere, making the first half of the novel feel a smidgen choppy, and the writing really starts to flow and find its stride about halfway through.
The terrorist hid radioactive materials in a bedbug-infested bed, and the, um, subsequent illegal activities that happened later in that room (courtesy of local hooker, Candy) just happened to slightly open the container. And voilà, now we have pink glowing bedbugs the size of potatoes with enhanced enzymes that quickly melt all flesh & bone into stinky goo while leaving all other materials untouched. Giant, glowing, radioactive, man-eating bedbugs… how creepy is that??
While our hero, Agent Jack Daniels, recovers from a badly executed plan to catch the bad guy, everyone else takes us through a series of misunderstandings and cover-ups. Some are tragic, some are funny, and some are just plain odd. The oddness, in my opinion, is another symptom of the choppiness above and would’ve benefitted from a little more exploration. Such as why his name really is or is not Jack Daniels, which is handled as a short but cute anecdote late in the book.
In fact, the whole book could’ve been improved by being either a lot longer -or- a lot shorter. My guess is that the author was going for a happy medium between facts-only and full story modes, and as a result missed the mark a bit. Thankfully, we got our happy ending/ending with a twist followed by a couple more chapters and an epilogue to setup for a potential sequel.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, “Shady Palms” was enjoyable despite the distracting grammatical and typographical errors, at least in the proof copy, and e-book version. My recommendation is to READ IT SOMEWHERE OTHER THAN IN BED, and give your brain plenty of pauses to fill in the gaps. Then the story jolts become much more fun because you get to see how close you came to what actually happens next. A few minor issues aside, this is a fantastic horror/suspense novel that’s especially fun if you’re a bug-phobic like our editor.
Creepy. Crawly. Bloodsucking. Irradiated Fun!! – Seriously, DON’T read this in bed!! – 8.0/10
Contributing Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine