Dead Anyway

By Chris Knopf

(The Permanent Press, $28,  248 pages)

Who is this author?

Chris Knopf was already well-known in Greater Hartford as CEO of Mintz & Hoke, the Avon-based advertising and public relations agency before he started publishing mystery novels. Now he’s well-known nationally, as those novels have gained him rave reviews, including plaudits from The New York Times. His books include two series set in the Hamptons on Long Island, where he has a second home. One series features the crusty investigator Sam Acquillo. In the other, the main character is the feisty lawyer Jackie Swaitkowski. Those books include “The Last Refuge,” “Two Time,” “Head Wounds” (which won the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Mystery), “Hard Stop,” and “Black Swan.”Another, set on the Jersey Shore (but happily devoid of Snooki and her pals) was “Elysiana.” When he’s not at his day job or writing, which he calls his “night job,” he might be doing some cabinet-making or carpentry or sailing. Here’s what Knopf says about how his interests mesh:

“My night job is writing novels. If I wasn’t a copywriter, I don’t think I could do it. And vice versa. One informs the other and you never get bored.”

His readers don’t get bored, either.

What is this book about?

Arthur Cathcart was living the good life, working as a freelance market researcher and sometime finder of missing people and adoring his gorgeous and successful insurance exec (the book is set in Connecticut) wife. Then one day, he comes home to horror: a gunman threatening to kill them both if Florencia doesn’t give written answers to some mysterious questions. She does; the thug kills her anyway and blasts Arthur, too. He goes into a coma and comes out damaged emotionally and physically, but vowing to find the SOB who has ruined everything. But first, he has to disappear off the grid as well, at least as far as anyone can tell. With the help of his physician sister who declares him dead at his request, a casino worker who becomes his close ally, a grumpy newspaper reporter, a retired cop and a bunch of hilariously drawn Bosnian criminals in Hartford, not to mention some really evil evildoers, Arthur finds out some inconvenient truths and enacts a most satisfying revenge.

Why you’ll like it:

Knopf is master at creating dead-on dialogue and quirky characters, which he does in “Dead Anyway” with great elan. He also gives readers of this book a crash course in computer hacking and cracking, which may seem daunting at first but becomes fascinating as you get into it.  Arthur’s a bit flat as a character – largely because his brain has been injured and is slow to heal – but Knopf makes up for that be giving us some dandy sidekicks. Local readers will also find the familiar locale fun to read about. Another fine effort from Knopf that is well-deserving of the starred reviews it has received from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal and Booklist.

What others are saying:

“Dead Anyway” is one of those deceptive thrillers that seems to suck you in at the beginning and spit you out at the end, leaving you breathless with admiration for a job well done. It s really difficult to write a revenge novel that comes out feeling fresh, but much to my pleasurable surprise, Chris Knopf has managed to do just that… This is not only a great thriller, but also a study manual on how to disappear, find the bad guys, kill the ones you don t like, and prosper,” says the Sacramento Book Review.

“Knopf… reaches a new imaginative peak with market researcher Arthur Cathcart in this outstanding revenge novel. …As he begins the tortuous rehabilitation process and looks into establishing new identities, Cathcart realizes that it’s almost impossible to go off the grid totally and still be able to function effectively, so he has to compromise in inventive ways. Cathcart ingeniously manages to penetrate the world of hired killers and major crime figures in his quest to discover both the who and the why behind the original hit,” says Publishers Weekly.

Library Journal says:  “…Angry Arthur has mapped out a strategy to make everyone to think he’s dead, and he’s concocted an elaborate alternative identity plan so he can track down the hit man himself. Since Arthur was a professional researcher, his prowess with online detecting is quite remarkable. His audacious plan is both psychologically chilling and exciting as the plot burrows through the bowels of underworld Connecticut. Running the supreme con, Arthur pulls in his prey. … Knopf’s tale is suspenseful from the get-go, with an intellectual, yet visceral, vigilantism coursing through the pages. In a major change in direction, the author of the “Sam Acquillo Hamptons Mysteries” (Black Swan; Hard Stop) never misses an angle and manages to weave a bit of humor into a storyline that could have been purely dark.”

“Nothing in Knopf’s reflective, quietly loopy Hamptons mysteries starring Sam Acquillo and Jackie Swaitkowski (Ice Cap, 2012, etc.) will have prepared his fans for this taut, streamlined tale of a man investigating his own murder. …Arthur, once he’s erased from the grid, is free to assume the identity of one Alex Rimes and go after the hit man and his employer. He tires easily, he limps badly, and his vision is poor, but his skills as a freelance researcher turn out to be surprisingly useful…The trail to the killers leads through a wary arrangement with a retired FBI agent, an elaborate precious-metals scam and a society party to die for before Arthur finally confronts his quarry in a sequence that manages both to satisfy readers’ bloodlust and to point toward a sequel. An absorbing update of the classic film, D.O.A., that finds its author so completely in the zone that not a word is wasted, and the story seems to unfold itself without human assistance,” says Kirkus Reviews.

When is it available?

You can get this book at these Hartford Public Library branches: Barbour, Dwight, Goodwin, Mark Twain Park and Ropkins or request it for pickup at the Downtown library.

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