First published in February of 2008, US author Bobby Cole’s debut novel ‘The Dummy Line’ later saw a more predominant publication via the relatively new Amazon Encore publishing arm.
Jake Crosby is an avid hunter. That’s why he forks out so much each year for his membership with the small hunting club in the remote outbacks of Alabama. And this year, with the turkey hunting season just beginning, Jake is taking his nine-year-old daughter Katy with him.
Tucked away in the swampy backwoods, so remote that there’s virtually no phone signal, Jake and Katy settle down for the night in the static camper that sits in the hunting camp’s grounds. However, their weekend hunting is suddenly turned into a terrifying nightmare, when a group of drug-dealing redneck thugs turn up with the firm intention of robbing the club.
Alone, with little chance of escaping the gun-wielding thugs, Jake takes the only option he can see in order to keep himself and his daughter safe. Whilst being threatened at gunpoint, Jake Crosby shoots and kills the gang’s obvious leader – Johnny Lee Grover. In the resulting mayhem, Jake and Katy escape in their jeep, taking the back-route out of the camp and off towards the old abandoned Dummy Line that eventually leads back up to the main highway.
But with Johnny Lee now dead, his first cousin (and equally criminally inclined) Reese Turner is out for blood. Nothing will stop him reaping revenge on his cousin’s murderer, no matter how justified the shooting was. And so, with his fellow gang members – “Sweat” Lawrence and Tommy “Tiny” Tidwell now following his orders, the thugs split up in order to catch and kill their desperately fleeing prey.
However, just before his phone signal packs up altogether, Jake is able to get a broken message to his hunting friend Mick Johnson who lives nearby. Johnson only captures fragments of the message, but hearing the word “emergency” in the middle of the night gets him worried. And so he goes down to the hunting camp’s grounds to investigate. There he sees the premises strangely abandoned, with lights still on, the heating pumping out its warmth, but the cabin’s doors wide open with no one about. Only when he notices blood on his clothing from walking around the area does he decide to call in the local police authority. And so, somewhat begrudgingly at first, Sheriff Ollie Landrum attempts to slowly piece together what on earth has been going on down at the hunting grounds.
Meanwhile, college football star Tanner Tillman and his girlfriend Elizabeth Beasley have parked-up in the nearby fields to watch the stars (and get a little more intimate). However, upon leaving the grounds, they run into “Tiny” and “Sweat” who are attempting to locate Jake and his daughter. Tanner has no idea how much danger he’s in, when from out of the shadows, comes the muscle-heavy “Sweat”.
When Deputy Ralph Carmelo (R.C.) Smithson stumbles across the heavily-beaten and barely conscious body of Tanner lying next to his abandoned jeep in nearby to the hunting club grounds, the situation suddenly looks a whole lot worse. And matters soon go further downhill when they learn that Tanner was with his girlfriend, who is now missing.
That night, the gloomy wilderness of outback Alabama has suddenly become a hunting ground for more than just turkey’s. That night, there are people desperately running for their lives...
What instantly jumps out at the reader as soon as they embark on this desperate roller-coaster of a ride is how incredibly easy the tale is to become completely swallowed up with. Cole’s writing style is easy and unpretentious, clearly putting more emphasis on the actual events unfolding in the instantly engaging storyline than on any flowery or poetically elegant wordplay.
There’s so much about the novel that reminds the reader of Richard Laymon’s work. The straight-to-the-point writing style. The unashamed Americanism of the premise and characters. The bold head-on action and adrenaline pumping pace. And the ever-present threat on the female characters that always seem to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
What Cole really excels at here is with making the reader really care about the characters, purposefully playing on your heartstrings as the tension cranks up another notch. The action barely takes a breather from the very moment Johnny Lee and his mob first arrives on the scene, with one chaotic turn in events after another spiralling ever closer to the final and inevitable showdown.
With great similarities to that of Doug Johnstone’s whisky drenched thriller ‘Smokeheads’ (2011), Cole’s ‘The Dummy Line’ plays heavily with the uninhabited outback scenario, and simply embraces the sheer adrenaline-pumping edge-of-the-seat love of a unrelenting thriller.
The tale is instantly engaging, captivating, entertaining and pretty darn difficult to put down. The short-sharp-shock chapters that Cole employs (86 chapters in just over 300 pages), means that the novel is constantly delivering bursts of excitement as well as multiple changing angles. This works incredibly well in maintaining the non-stop intense pace of the novel.
All in all, the tale is simply a captivating and thoroughly engrossing heart-racing thriller, bursting at the rafters with crazy twists and turns that just ladles on more edge-of-the-seat mayhem. A gloriously gripping read from start to finish.
The novel runs for a total of 322 pages.
© DLS Reviews