For a fairly compact novel, Keith Lee Morris's third book The Dart League
King certainly packs it all in. Morris anchors his narrative with a
creative divisional framework, each section told from the viewpoint of a
different character, which propels the reader forward and avoids letting him or
her get bogged down at any point. He also has a knack for informing his
audience in depth about the game of darts in a layman-friendly fashion, giving
the reader the chance to gain exposure to a little-documented subject without
overloading the logistics (the rule guide in the back of the book helps).
Morris, too, creates characters to truly invest in - the reader is intrigued by
the mysterious, brooding Tristan, feels sympathy for the genuine and kind yet
unfulfilled Brice and roots for the main man Russell every step of the way
despite his despicable drug addiction. But most notably,
Morris manages to weave a tale that lasts for just
one night but which the reader will remember for much longer.
The social issues Morris grapples with are weighty, providing his audience with ample food for thought. For example, Morris probes the politics of a love triangle between three former high school classmates, Kelly at the center sandwiched between Russell and Tristan, that reveals the substantive core of each of the involved players. It is through the lens of this contorted romantic puzzle that the reader sees both Kelly's regrets for her small-town life and her true gift for motherhood. It is from this vantage point that the reader gets a glimpse of Russell's ultimately admirable character and is thus able to forgive his faults. And it is also from this angle that readers are chilled to the bone by Tristan- which in the world of fiction means the pages will not stop turning.
Morris also explores the more sobering issues of debt and law, asking readers, "When might it be acceptable to shelve morals and ethics, and when is it not?" The complexity of the relationships among the book's cast of characters, some of which stems from this theoretical dilemma, makes for action on every page. The Dart League King is anything but a bore, leaving much to chew on well after one reads the epilogue.
The penchant for driving the plot of his fast-paced mystery novel is what makes Morris an author to watch. Each of the main characters receives enough stage time for the reader to really care about how these characters end up by the book's end. The creatively titled sections, colorful dialogue and inventive usage of literary tactics like stream-of-consciousness for the text written from Vince's perspective, as well as for the narration of the final dart match, keep the wheels constantly whirring. The only shortcoming is Kelly's slightly less-than-believable portrayal at points, as the male author's inevitable challenge is the convincing illustration of a female (especially a maternal figure). But the highlights of the book upstage this faltering and make every moment memorable.
This review is from the November 12, 2008 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.
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