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Bluff, John DeDakis' second thriller, picks up some 6 months after the events of Fast Track with Lark Chadwick now working as a reporter for her mentor and surrogate father-figure, Lionel Stone. The novel opens with Lark meeting with local sleazy real estate agent Shane Duran to sell him her grandfather's farm for a heap of much needed cash. However, she quickly realizes that he has scammed her and is paying her only a fraction of what they had agreed upon and she tears up the agreement.

Her relationship with Jason Jordan, the handsome news reporter she met during her showdown with a killer in Fast Track, is progressing, but slowly, which is just how Lark likes it. Meanwhile, Lionel hires a junior reporter named Kirk Kensington to work with Lark on a trial basis so that the two of them can blow the lid off of Shane Duran's "Landscam," where he has been swindling various people out of their property in the local area, and Lark finds herself attracted to Kirk. To further complicate things, Lark meets Jonathan Anderson, a reporter who moonlights as a comedian, who is also drawn to her.

While Lark and Kirk break the Landscam story, Jason gets more widespread coverage on his TV station, causing friction between he and Lark, but more importantly, enraging Shane Duran as he singles Jason out, threatening him. Before you know it, Jason mysteriously ends up dead at the bottom of the cliff on the very property at the center of Landscam.

As Lark and Kirk work to solve the mystery of Jason's death, Lionel and his wife Muriel come into possession of their daughter Holly's diary containing entries from the last days of her life before she mysteriously slipped off a cliff and died while hiking in Peru. Lionel finds reading it hard to take since he and Holly quarreled right before she died, so Lark reads through it, looking for clues and hope for Lionel and Holly's shattered relationship. As people are described in Holly's diary that seem all too familiar to Lark, she begins to wonder if Holly's death was an accident as she sees the parallels between Holly's and Jason's recent demise. As Lark, herself, falls under suspicion for Jason's death, she works frantically to solve the mysteries of the two deaths before the vice grips of the law clamp around her.

I must admit that Bluff didn't hit the ground running like Fast Track did, mainly because Fast Track opens with a death and Bluff merely opens with an attempted swindle. By the time the book draws to a close, it has its share of violence, mystery and mayhem, but I didn't find it quite as compelling as the first novel. In fact, the book didn't truly get to Holly's death and the events surrounding it until the last 85 pages, which was kind of fast to cover everything that I initially thought was going to be the focus of the story.

Personally, I don't like the fact that Dedakis describes the apparel of every character almost every time they are mentioned, but I suppose he is trying to paint a mental picture. He did this all through Fast Track as well, but seemed to back off a bit towards the last part of Bluff and I was grateful. I just didn't find myself caring if someone was wearing a blue cardigan or not. However, Bluff is still an interesting yarn and since it doesn't contain objectionable sexual content like many thrillers do, it's a book that someone looking for a lighter thriller would enjoy. At times, Lark can seem a bit whiny and, honestly, I don't know anyone who carries a handkerchief in their pocket these days, whether young or old, but most of the characters are pleasant and Bluff is an easy read. At just under three hundred pages with short chapters, it's something you can pick up and put down when you have a bit of time to read a few pages. I thought I had the ending all figured out by the halfway mark, but I didn't and I like to be surprised, so that's a good thing. If you are looking for a summer read that is part mystery, part thriller, part family drama, with a nice shake of faith and romance, you should check out Bluff. If, however, you prefer thrillers with a lot of violence, murder and sex, you may want to look elsewhere.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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