For example, readers should only “see” what each character sees, when he’s onstage.  They should also see it the same way that that particular character would see it.  Someone jogging around his own neighborhood, for example, might notice the sun creeping up over the horizon or the neighbor’s barking dog—if he’s the kind of guy that tunes into the world around him.  He would not, however, notice every tree, shrub and house, as Dodson’s characters do.  And sometimes, he might not notice anything at all, particularly if he’s thinking about something else.  But all of Dodson’s characters notice everything around them, down to the most annoying detail.

Also, Dodson gives his characters quirks, which is great, but he’s so fond of them that he tends to hammer them home.  A criminal with a tendency to repeat a cohort’s words does it over and over.  A character who likes to chow down on a certain snack refers to that snack a half dozen times in the same scene.  These incidents all serve to slow down the narrative.

Other issues stem from editing.  “Some of the investment advisors at Capshaw-Crane preferred laptops for their portability,” Dodson writes, in one of numerous redundant phrases, “choosing to transport them to the office each morning and plugging them into their docking stations before beginning each day.” The second half of that sentence merely serves to define “laptop” and should have been deleted.

Dodson is a skilled writer, with a tremendous amount of potential.  Hopefully, as he continues to publish and practice his craft, we’ll see less of these mistakes.  Or, he’ll acquire a stronger editor.  As is, Daniel’s Den is like a loaf of bread taken out of the oven just a bit too soon.  It’s edible, but more time would have made it really tasty.


**This review published on March 12, 2009.