I almost didn't read this book.
Tom Schreck talked about his stories in a Bouchercon panel on characters and their relationships with alcohol. His detective, Duffy Dombrowski, is a beer-drinking (ok, guzzling) social worker-cum-boxer who listens to nothing but Elvis. That's new, I thought at the time, but boxing's not my thing. The only sports I enjoy watching are hockey and soccer (and don't even get me started on people who think golf is a great spectator sport).
However, Schreck's discussion of the worlds of social work and writing caught my interest. I must have walked past and picked up the copy of TKO for sale in the book room about ten times. Boxing aside, the story looked good: the back cover promised both humor and a serial killer.
Sunday, at the free-for-all book bazaar, I discovered that Schreck had a table set up. Well, when you can get a book you've been considering for free, signed and handed to you by the author, you go for it!
I feel terrible posting this in January, because I received my copy of TKO last October. And I can't even use the classic "oh, I just finished the book" excuse, because I devoured the entire novel on the flight home. It was an incredibly fast read, without having a plot that's too dumbed down.
The main story follows a case assigned to Duffy Dombrowski, of a man (Howard) recently released from prison, who was convicted twenty-five years ago of killing a number of his high school classmates. The man disappears just at around the same time students from the local high school start turning up dead, leaving the police convinced that Howard's guilty and Dombrowski convinced he's innocent. Further complicating matters are a number of subplots, including girlfriends, boxing, booze, and a self-appointed "apprentice". I was pleased to discover that the sport didn't overtake the main mystery, and I found the descriptions of boxing - from training to actual matches - surprisingly interesting.
I loved how quickly the book zipped by, and did find it funny as promised. The writing in places could have used some more work, and there were points where the plot seemed to flag, but overall I was drawn in to the story. If you're interested, you can see excerpts on Schreck's website.
Also, I feel compelled to point out that TKO is actually second in what is currently a trilogy. The first novel in the series is On the Ropes, and the most recent is Out Cold. Sadly, I haven't had a chance to read either yet.
[On a completely unrelated note, my birthday is in July. . .]