BOOK REVIEW: ‘Dead on Arrival’ by Kiki Swinson

c.2018, Kensington Dafina
$26 ($28.95 Canada)
288 pages

You want that.

And that, and that, and that. And some of those things over there because that’s human nature, especially if we want something we can’t have. So what would you do to get what you want? Would you, as in the new novel “Dead on Arrival” by Kiki Swinson, do something illegal?

There was always another poker game.

Reece Spencer hated to miss any of them, but he had to be careful: he owed several grand for gambling and he was afraid his wife, Dawn, would find out. She’d already gone to her parents for money to keep the lights on and now she was demanding 800 bucks for fertility treatments. If it weren’t for his job at the Norfolk International Terminal piers and a little petty theft now and then, Reece knew he’d be in big trouble.

But no, his supervisor, Ed, looked the other way while Reece and his buddies swiped the occasional big-screen TV from international containers and sold the goods elsewhere. Ed knew how much his boys needed the dough, so he asked Reece and his friends if they wanted in on a big job. Reece was all ears.

Fifteen-thousand dollars. That was the payoff. All they had to do was to move a couple of shipping containers to a different spot on the pier, but it had to be done quick and quiet without being seen. There were people inside those containers.

Reece knew that human trafficking could mean prison time.

But Ed swore there was no way to get caught, and Reece believed him — even if Dawn didn’t. She loved the cash, hated the idea, but bills needed to be paid and she wanted a baby, so when the first job went smoothly and Ed’s contact wanted to hire them again, Reece was ready for more.

On the second job, everything fell apart: three people escaped from a container and one died. The feds found the body and more, and then someone started killing Reece’s friends.

And someone else was watching his house …

At first, it seems that “Dead on Arrival” is awfully ho-hum predictable. There’s drama here, squabbling, greed, profanity, nosy family, the usual near-pornographic sex-scene, and yawn. Same old kind of novel, right?

Nope. Keep reading, because author Kiki Swinson squeezes her plot until it squeezes the breath out of you with twists and turns that are all too possible but will chill you like a horror novel. And here’s the thing: Swinson doesn’t overwrite this tale, and she doesn’t give readers everything. We aren’t allowed that full story; instead, we get just enough information, we’re left to fill in the blanks, and they aren’t pretty. This leads to an ending (don’t cheat!) that will make you scream (don’t cheat!) and throw the book against the wall — twice.

Pick it back up, though, because this is a novel to share with someone, just so you can talk about it. If you’re in need of a vacation read this summer, think “Dead on Arrival.”

Yeah. You want that.

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