Friday, May 19, 2017

The Dawn Patrol (Boone Daniels #1)The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

"Like, the moana was epic tasty this sesh and I slid over the ax of this gnarler and just foffed, totally shredded it, and I'm still amped from the ocean hit, so my bad, brah."

The blurb on the cover of Don Winslow's The Dawn Patrol (2008) says "Ultimate surfing novel." False advertising! The book certainly fails to deliver on the promise of "ultimate" and - on the other hand - it is a bit more than a "surfing novel." All in all, it is nowhere close to the class of the four-star Savages , a really good book, and also not as good as three other novels of this author that I have reviewed here on Goodreads.

The Dawn Patrol is a group of five surfers hanging out on San Diego beaches, mostly Pacific Beach. This implausibly composed group includes an ex-policeman and a part-time P.I. Boone Daniels, three other colorful characters, but also an active San Diego PD homicide detective. Yeah, right! As if!

A stripper scheduled to testify in an important case is pushed out of a window to her death. Boone is hired by Petra, a beautiful attorney, to find the dead woman's workmate, and he begins a private investigation that parallels one conducted by the police. There are cliché references to traumas from the past, cliché matters of the heart, and utterly cliché treatment of male bonding and friendship. The original investigation mutates into something even more serious, which overshadows the original case. The morphed plot twist is completely implausible, in addition to being formulaic and naïve.

Several aspects redeem the novel a little bit: it provides an interesting panorama of the beach culture. Writing is pretty good, as usual with Mr. Winslow, and there are some cute language pearls as exemplified by the stunning:
But like ain't is,
Is is is.
The title is a double entendre, one of the best I've ever seen, and the quote from The Beatles' Strawberry Fields is painfully distressing. As an almost 35-year-resident of San Diego I like the passages that talk about history of some places in the area. Events happen in locations that I know well: in fact, my family and I used to live just a quarter of a mile away from one of the locations of the story on Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach.

My main complaint is about how infantile the book is. Large parts of the text seem to have been written for the under-16 crowd. Some fragments are suitable for junior-high audience, like the passage where supposedly grown-up men discuss "which cartoon characters they'd most like to have sex with" or the scene that presents overeating and consequent copious puking. Only Monty Python can make explosive vomiting funny for adults.

So despite the good writing, neat puns, the surfbonics, the San Diego landscape, the painful motif of the strawberry fields, I am unable to recommend the book. Of course this quite readable novel may suit the tastes of hardcore surfing fans.

Two and a quarter stars.

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