3 out of 4 stars
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Among the large number of things I've learned from action movies, one of the biggest lessons is that vacations are rarely relaxing. In fact, unless a vacation happens in the last couple minutes of the movie, it's definitely not going to end up being a vacation at all. Vacations often end up being exhausting in real life too, sure, but it's because we sightsee too much, try too many awesome new foods, or don't sleep enough due to long drives and/or wanting to make the most of our time off.
Three Days in Daytona is the second book in the Mike Salas series and follows the titular detective as he takes a "leisurely" vacation down to Daytona for Bike Week. His itinerary includes two days travel down from his Fort Wayne, Indiana home, three glorious days in Daytona, Florida, and then two days travel back. He even purchases a bike - a 2016 Harley Davidson Road King - from a married Harley dealership employee that he's secretly hooking up with to break in on his vacation. On the trip down he comes across a guy named RJ at a Waffle House and the two of them end up becoming fast friends and deciding to bike down to Daytona together. The two share a love of motorcycles and Jack Reacher novels, but where Salas is a detective, RJ is the leader of the Son's motorcycle club. The Son's (always spelled with the apostrophe) are recently turning to legitimate business, but not everyone in the club is happy about it.
Enter Big John, the man who tried to get control of the Son's previously and has big goals for making everyone in the club rich. The club's previous president, Deuce, handed control over to RJ and wasn't exactly a close friend to Big John since RJ, as his body guard, was previously forced to step in and get violent during a previous meeting. Big John sees RJ as the only thing in his way to presidency, and drug running not as a dirty business but a blessing to the club that would make everyone's life better. And Big John is far from the only villainous figure in Florida: Vincent has recently gotten out of jail after a 3-year sentence and is headed to his brother's repo company but may have some nefarious plans for it, including involving a ruthless man named German.
All of these characters come together like a powder keg in less than half a week in Florida. The story is told through various points of view, and chapters are even given the title of which character(s) is being followed in them. This is both a good and bad thing: it's nice to get to know each character better, even the antagonists, but it also makes it much harder to get into the story and form a connection with each character. While Three Days in Daytona is one of those books that can be enjoyed even when almost nothing is happening, it really felt like very little happened until around a third of the way into the book. It also took me at least that long to truly care or feel connected to the characters, and in all honesty I didn't get that I NEED to know what's going to happen, I can't put this down for even a second! feeling until the action at the end of the book.
While I've never read any of the Jack Reacher books, I did watch the movie, and it's clear that Salas and RH aren't the only fans. My overall takeaway from Jack Reacher was that I liked it even though there wasn't a lot happening for most of the movie, and the same is true here. In fact, one of the funniest bits in the book was when Salas and RJ met: Salas walks into the Waffle House and the place is packed, so he comes up to a guy (RJ) reading a Jack Reacher book and asks if he can sit down. The two of them end up discussing how Tom Cruise was far too short and light to play the eponymous role, which is something I'd never even heard of outside the book until a week or so ago when news was made that the author shared the same sentiment. It was like the book was responding in real time to what I'd just learned online! Finally, the villain shares his most notable trait with the Zec (a bad guy in Jack Reacher): a contempt for weakness. As both are spoilers, I won't be specific, but one of the most memorable Jack Reacher scenes had the Zec giving a character a choice that required a great deal of strength, and German does something similar a couple times in Three Days in Daytona. This is far from a copy or a rip-off, in fact I found it very interesting to be able to compare them.
Salas is as knowledgeable about guns and bikes as the author, and both are detailed beyond my scope of understanding but not to the detriment of the book. Like the rest of the author's descriptiveness, I never felt bored reading room settings, outfits, character's looks, or choice of guns and rides. It did get a little repetitive that the "good guys" were pretty much always muscular, clean-cut people while the weaker (mentally and physically) people were often overweight slobs. Women were little more than sex objects or romantic partners, and the book even begins with the only naughty scene in the book, although it doesn't get explicit enough to require a warning against people in their late teens.
Finally, I managed to find over 40 errors in this 218-page book. Most of them were simple enough, like using "Sala's" instead of "Salas's" or spelling "hearse" without the "a", but there were some repeated issues as well. For example, the name of Richard and Vincent's repo company is "We Found U Repo" but sometimes it's written as "We Found You Repo", and there are several sentences that are lacking a period at the end, sometimes even in the middle of a paragraph.
While it may sound like I have a lot of negative things to say about the book, it's comparable to getting a gorgeous, brand new motorcycle with some scratches on it. Yeah, the scratches are small and minor, but they're more noticeable because the rest of it is rather terrific. I thought Salas was a stand up guy with some very human flaws and who ends up growing throughout the novel. RJ, without any kind of pledge to uphold the law, follows his own code that walks the grey between black and white, but he does it all under the threat of his probation officer finding out. Vincent and Richard have a unique brotherly relationship, and even German's hatred of weakness is interesting when it comes up.
My rating of Three Days in Daytona is 3 out of 4 stars. The number of errors makes it impossible to rate it any higher, and the other issues I had with the book are countered by my enjoyment with it. While I never had a problem putting the book down, I also never once wanted to stop reading the book. There's some action, plenty of humor, some solid (even if not terribly deep) characters, and a number of terrific quotes. While reading the first book in the series, Last Night in Sturgis, certainly isn't necessary (I didn't read it myself), I would recommend it since there are several events referred to that I'm assuming happened in Sturgis. I wouldn't recommend the book for those in their early teens or younger due to the violence and bit of sex at the beginning, and those who want an action-packed ride may get a bit bored. But for Jack Reacher fans or people who like a slow burn with numerous characters, you'll likely end up enjoying your time with the book just like I did. Folks who love motorcycles or who do Bike Week or other bike rallies will especially get a kick out of it, and Matt Spain is just the guy to write such a book since he is, in his own words, a "25 year veteran of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Daytona Bike Week, and Laughlin."
Three Days in Daytona
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