Dream Killer by Mike Baldwin
Warning: discussion of sexual assault and pedophilia
Dream Killer by Mike Baldwin follows Veronica Townsend, a sports agent that’s constructed a brand new summer camp to fulfill her late friend’s wishes. The camp, built right on the farm where her friend was born and raised, caters to youth of all ages, though the camp gives out a lot of scholarships to underprivileged kids. But when a lifeguard is killed, Veronica has to solve the murder and keep the camp afloat despite the cancelations that are pouring in.
Mysteries are hit and miss with me. I either solve them in the first quarter of the book or I get blindsided near the end. Either way, I generally enjoy them, especially if the characters are intriguing or the plot is suspenseful. This book had neither, but I’ll get to that in a minute. I’m going to address the positives first.
The main reason I was drawn to this book was because of the setting. I was a camp counselor for five summers and loved every second of it. Having a novel set in an atmosphere that would remind me of my favorite place on earth was one of the biggest reasons I picked this book up. Unfortunately we don’t hear from the counselors much, at least not when they’re in that role with the kids. Most of the characters are administrators, police, or counselors that are off the clock. There’s even a camper or two. My favorite scene was with the campers doing the scavenger hunt and reading about them enjoying themselves or when the adults went out of their way to make sure the kids had a good time all the time. That’s what camp is about.
Sorry, I’ll stop reminiscing and get back to the book.
It took me at least three-quarters of the way if not more to figure out the killer though I had my suspicions fairly early (totally nailed the victim), which should be a good thing. But not this time. The reason I hadn’t solved the mystery sooner is because of the rotating door of character perspectives, subplots, and backstories, most of which did nothing to progress the plot. In the first chapter, we are introduced to a minimum of five characters, four of which are women and nearly impossible to tell apart, even by the end of the book. And those five character’s don’t make a quarter of the cast. There’s a ton of people in this book! I’m not even confident that Veronica could be classified as the main character though we heard from her the most. Even in her and other “main character” perspectives, we still knew the thought and motivations of other characters they were interacting with, which really took the suspense out of the novel. There was also a surprising lack of character growth, for any of the characters we meet, which was disappointing. They’re all more or less the same people when we met them, and nothing really happened to spur them to change.
Speaking of suspense, the ending was anti-climatic and pretty disappointing. Why did we need to read about a camper’s trip to Disneyland? It was unnecessary. Also, there’s one scene where Veronica pick up a teenage camper, drives an hour across town and questions an eleven-year-old in her home about a very sensitive situation. Sorry, but that doesn’t happen and if word had gotten out that she’d done that, Veronica would be in a whole lot of trouble.
As for Veronica’s detective skills, I wasn’t too impressed. Too many crucial pieces of evidence were given to her, she relied on her assistant’s weird dreams and thought them premonitions, and most of the time I couldn’t follow her logic. Did I like her character? Yes. Did I think she was a good detective? Well, she’s no Nancy Drew.
Another weird subplot was all the baseball talk. Veronica’s deceased friend was a baseball star, and she built this camp in his honor. She is also an agent for baseball players and most of her friends are in the baseball industry. However, it felt that every couple pages someone was telling some baseball story or asking for stats and we’d get some in-depth analysis of the entire baseball season, which I found unnecessary and most of it went over my head. (Go Pirates!)
There were also quite a few errors. On more than one occasion, the author used the wrong character name, misspelled a word, or used the wrong word.
If you look past all of the characters and subplots and get down to the mystery, I actually liked it. There were a few twists I hadn’t expected and wished the central mystery had been paced and plotted better instead of cluttering the book with so many other unimportant characters and subplots. He would have had a much better story had he trimmed the fat a bit more.
My Rating: 2/5
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Interested in Dream Killer? You can buy it on Amazon for $4.99.
Thanks for reading!