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Kept Kindle Edition
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Connor and George, two young gay men, are entwined in a scam and must fight for their lives. Their story is told adroitly through multiple plot lines, where each character proves to be more ruthless than the next. All merge toward one thing: the rustle of dollar bills. Underhanded realtors, chiseled construction workers, boy toys, cut-throat casino heads, tribal Indians and drug dealers — they only differ in their method of attaining, really the attempt to attain, wealth. And it comes with every single cost.
The novel is a cautionary tale and a head-shaker. How can these people validate their actions, their thoughts, their beliefs? And of course, the reader is intrigued, reluctant to break from the book for even a moment.
The catalyst for the escalating suspense is a delusional, career-climbing reporter, who questions why a string of people lost their homes in shady real estate deals. Deception leads to double-crossing; soon people are bumped off — easy in the desolate terrain surrounding Palm Springs.
Of all the tough characters, the author smartly puts the desert, shall we say, dead center. As the strongest, most unforgiving character in the book, the desert always wins; it’s where an abandoned person dies, or a dead body is lost, in minutes. Consider the excruciating heat — with its requisite sun, dirt and wind (“carrying palm fronds for miles”) — which acts oppressively on all those smarmy people, making them squirm as they desperately scratch for the pot of gold, and in that very act push their own stories to an end.
Kept is at once sensual and forbidding, thrilling and frightening. As the author of the award-wining Benediction and The Forest Dark, Mr. Arnold has hit his stride.
The novel is peopled with recognizable denizens of the Palm Springs scene, from hot young men to tribal casino employees, seedy meth dealers to scammy real-estate moguls, down-on-their-luck reporters to hunky Marines from nearby Twentynine Palms, and just about everyone in-between. The author brings Palm Springs to life; those who know the town will recognize dozens of locales, those who don’t may want to pay a visit—or perhaps not.
The desert, its monumental and oppressive presence, looms over the story in a way that reminded me of a sentence from the opening paragraph of Raymond Chandler’s “Red Wind” when he writes of the hot, dry Santa Anas: Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen.
Arnold is a talented writer, and though many of his characters are--let’s face it--despicable, he manages to keep them recognizably human, and I found myself rooting for more than one of them to escape unscathed. In truth, no one comes out of the maelstrom of events without scars, but some survive and maybe, in their way, even flourish.
Make no mistake, though: These are bad people who bring to mind the phrase “the banality of evil.” Nobody here is a criminal mastermind, and they’re far too bumbling and inept to be Don Corleone or even Jerry Lundegaard.
I am really glad to have gotten an advance copy of Kept for review. It’s terrific!
Of late we’ve had lots of books published in the genre known as Nordic Noir. KEPT fits nicely into the Desert Noir genre, if such a thing exists. Arnold captures so well the heat and desolation of Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indio and the “Other Desert Cities” including Morongo and its casino. To anyone who has spent time in any of these desert oases, Arnold’s descriptions are right on and I found myself feeling oppressed by the heat while reading my advanced readers copy of this book in February.
KEPT's structure, and particularly its style need to be noted as well. Though the story unfolds via multiple points of view, the tone is clear, consistent and unique—perfect for noir. KEPT doesn’t doesn’t disappoint. Arnold keeps the action and questions going until the end.
This is not a book I’d have chosen to read. An advance copy was given me and I was asked to review it. The cover alone put me off: a handsome, muscled, dark-skinned man shirtless before a colorful dusk desert sky – not something that would grab my fancy. However, once I was a third of the way into it, interest over-took me and I was eager to see how all these shenanigans were going to play out. My only real complaint is that the sex scenes could have been a little more descriptive. But then this isn’t porn, this is modern-day noir.