Official Review: Dreamer of Downing Street

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bookowlie
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Official Review: Dreamer of Downing Street

Post by bookowlie »

[Following is the official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Dreamer of Downing Street" by Roberta L. Smith.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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A psychic, a murder, and Denver in 1944! The Dreamer of Downing Street by Roberta L. Smith certainly caught my attention. It is a prequel to the author’s Mickey McCoy series and categorized in the Crime/Mystery/Thriller Fiction genre. Ever since he was a child, Franklin “Frank” Powell has had “knowings” or psychic thoughts. He also can hear what other people are thinking. When he grows up, he puts these talents to good use, setting up shop as a psychic. Thankfully, he uses his gift to try to stop bad acts in advance. With the help of his friend Mike, a policeman, Frank investigates a decades-old crime in order to exonerate his mother. Add a few ghosts, a parolee brother, and a complicated love life to the mix and the stage is set for this historical mystery.

Frank is a likeable yet flawed character. His crush on a tavern proprietor, Dinah, and his caring for his clients gives him a grounded, realistic feel, despite his supernatural abilities. He also has a few cute quirks, such as saying “La la la” over and over to drown out the voices in his head. The minor characters are given a clear backstory and personality so that you feel like you know them well. The only exception is Frank’s girlfriend Winnie, who I didn’t get a good sense of. It seemed like she was just inserted in the story here and there.

The author’s casual writing style is peppered with sophisticated phrasing and a subtle, dry humor. I like that Mike gains information at different points, but is not a sidekick in an overwhelming way. In fact, Frank finds more on his own through his psychic talents and the help of two ghosts. The author doesn’t hit the reader over the head with the cliché of a policeman friend as a plot device.

The Denver setting is a subtle backdrop. There are scattered references to hiking places, the Old Mill Tunnel of Love fire, and a few streets and buildings, but overall I didn’t really get a distinct sense of place. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it allows the reader to focus on the plot.

It did take me a little while to get into the plot due to the jumps between time periods and subplots. The story begins with a vignette from Frank’s childhood and then jumps forward to 20 years later. Then Frank leaves his body for a long passage and goes back in time to chat with Mrs. Tabor, a troubled woman he met as a child. After a few chapters, the time period stayed constant for longer stretches.

The main storyline is inventive, not only the crux of it but all the neat little details. Frank is able to know when a familiar ghost is in the room as the temperature drops significantly and the scent of tobacco fills the air. I also enjoyed the way the author reveals the initial clues, alternating between actual childhood memories and psychic thoughts.

The pacing is slow at times. The side stories about Dinah, Frank’s client Bessie, his ex-wife, and Mrs. Tabor are interesting. However, these subplots often throw the central storyline off track. I found myself wondering, “When are we going to get back to the mystery?” Frank’s mother and brother are sitting in jail and almost forgotten on the back burner for a long period. During large chunks of the book, Frank’s “house ghost” keeps the mystery from completely falling off the radar, but just barely.

This book has earned 3 out of 4 stars. In spite of the busy plot, I enjoyed the story. There are several neat twists that made me smile or sit up with a jolt, although the “few-too-many” turns became a little dizzying in the last third of the book. Mystery readers and anyone who appreciates quirky characters and benevolent ghosts will find this a worthwhile read. As for the naysayers, Frank would say, “La la la.”

******
Dreamer of Downing Street
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Post by gali »

Sounds good! Great review as always. I am glad you enjoyed it. :)
In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you." (Mortimer J. Adler)

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Post by bookowlie »

Thanks Gali! With series books, I usually wind up reviewing the first book in a series and have to wait for future installments to be written. In this case, this is a prequel and there are several installments of the Mickey McCoy series already published. Nice change!
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Post by bluemel4 »

Wonderful review! Very insightful and enjoyable to read. The book really seems like something special. I am glad the characters are realistic. The ghost part seems fun and interesting. I am putting this in my to-read list. :D
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Post by Cee-Jay Aurinko »

Sounds like a pretty amazing read. I'm glad I read your review, bookowlie. It's great and it makes me want to get this book right away.
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Post by bookowlie »

bluemel4 wrote:Wonderful review! Very insightful and enjoyable to read. The book really seems like something special. I am glad the characters are realistic. The ghost part seems fun and interesting. I am putting this in my to-read list. :D
Thanks! I usually get the creepy crawlies from ghosts in books, but this time they were helpful in providing clues (no spoilers).

-- 07 Sep 2015, 17:27 --
Leon Durham wrote:Sounds like a pretty amazing read. I'm glad I read your review, bookowlie. It's great and it makes me want to get this book right away.
Thanks Leon. I'm glad my review brightened your day. :lol: :lol: :lol: Just kidding. Glad to see you posting.
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Post by Levi »

@bookowlie wow, this latest one does sound interesting. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I agree with you--too little is sometimes better than too much--and an author must know their limitations. But it is fun to experiment and create and it sounds like this author did a little of both. I like the idea based on your review, and I would read it!! A psychic, a ghost, and a parolee walk into a bar.......
P.s. What a great closing line BTW....la la la naysayers ha ha ha
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Post by bookowlie »

Escapeartist wrote:@bookowlie wow, this latest one does sound interesting. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I agree with you--too little is sometimes better than too much--and an author must know their limitations. But it is fun to experiment and create and it sounds like this author did a little of both. I like the idea based on your review, and I would read it!! A psychic, a ghost, and a parolee walk into a bar.......
P.s. What a great closing line BTW....la la la naysayers ha ha ha
Ha ha ha - A psychic, a ghost, and a parolee walk into a bar...that would make a funny joke. Actually, the main character's brother, the parolee, was a good supporting character. He was on the back burner for a large part of the book, but he was very memorable and weirdly lovable in the scenes he was in.

As for the closing line, Frank's little quirk to shut out the voices in his head was only mentioned once or twice early in the story, but it really stuck with me. :)
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Post by Levi »

Yes, I can tell that line stuck with you!! :) It's a great line for a psychic actually. Nice touch by the author. And congrats to the author on a positive review!!
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Post by bookowlie »

The best is when Frank, hearing what bad people are thinking, calls them out on it and "psychs" them out. ha ha ha
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Post by Levi »

Ha ha ha that is a great touch, I'll have to add this to the list. That's clever!
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Post by zeldas_lullaby »

Great review! Very eloquently written.

This book sounds interesting--I love out-of-body experiences and psychic abilities! Denver's a great city for a backdrop, too!

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Post by bookowlie »

Thanks. With the psychic stuff, I could picture this book series as a weekly TV show.
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Post by zeldas_lullaby »

Ooh, that would be exciting. They don't make enough good television anymore. I might watch that, though!

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Post by chytach18- »

Interesting book. Nice review. I was mislead by the title, though. I thought it would do something with the British Prime Minister. “La la la.”
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