What a fun read!! My brother told me about this book and then mailed it last week with the comment ... "a gripping page-turner that you won't be able to put down".
"Dylan's Monster" turned out to be all that and more. I was delighted to find that that many of the novel's characters have a depth not normally associated with crime novels and scene descriptions that evoke the authentic Philadelphia of my youth. In addition, the clever organization of the novel -- each section is headed by a character's name -- propels the narrative and plot forward while allowing digressions to describe some very amusing fraud schemes that Faustman no doubt experienced while working for the insurance industry.
Most striking for me, however, is Faustman's uniquely 'clean & concise' narrative style. The ultra-lean prose seems to have its own strict grammar rules that enable the author to pack lots of substance into each page. Dylan's own clipped interior dialogue sound like (I imagine) real crime investigators think.
I've been told that it often takes many tries before an author finds his own authentic "voice", but I sense Faustman got it right his first time out of the gate. At least I hope it's his first book; I'm looking forward to Dylan's next adventure. Move over D. Hammett and Raymond Chandler!!
Full disclosure: For about 20 years our family lived right next to the Faustman family in Drexel Hill, a western suburb of Philadelphia. I clearly recall watching the younger "Tommy" practice his jump shot for hours after school on our backyard driveway basketball court. I also grew up with many of the people upon which the novel's characters are based. But I haven't seen or spoken to Tom Faustman or many of those characters in nearly half a century because I went off to the Peace Corps (Africa) and then to Vietnam, and never really returned to the Philadelphia area. Until I read his book I didn't even know that Tom Faustman was an MP in Vietnam; for all I know we served there at the same time [I was in the Mekong Delta working for the US Consulate]. So it was a delight to read his novel and become re-acquainted with the Tom Faustman/Dylan character and some of the other familiar characters in the story -- "The Jimmer", "Gator", "Tony Sol" and many others from the old neighborhood.
Some say that if the plot is good enough it will make for good scenes and for good dialogue. Dylan's Monster has a good plot, good scene descriptions, and great, fully-drawn characters. Oh yeh, and there's that authentic, hard-boiled, Philly repartee that many reviewers, including me, found very amusing. That type of tough-love, New Jersey Soprano's, 'bustin' balls' banter must be hardwired into my genes because it all seemed very familiar and natural to me.