Reviews for Next Right Thing


Booklist Reviews 2012 February #1
Disgraced Southern California cop Randy Chalmers would have drowned himself in drink if it weren't for Terry Elias, the Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor who helped him stare down the demons that were destroying his life. So when Terry is found dead of a heroin overdose in a sleazy motel, Randy becomes singularly focused on seeking justice. Randy knew Terry was no angel, but he had no idea what kind of deep, dark trouble his friend was in, from Internet pornography and pot farms to shady real estate deals. As Randy pursues clues to Terry's demise, he must contend with challenges of his own: a difficult ex-wife, a distant daughter, and a recovering addict girlfriend about to give him the shove. Barden, who has been in recovery himself for years, vividly renders the culture of Alcoholics Anonymous and the flawed souls who depend on it to stay sane and alive. While billed as a thriller, The Next Right Thing is less mystery than tale of male friendship. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2012 March
A strange road to recovery

With The Next Right Thing, author Dan Barden mixes up a cocktail of grit and sentimentality infused with mystery, humor, A.A. philosophy and several drops of California sunshine.

This is Barden’s second novel, following 1997’s John Wayne, and he gives his readers a complex protagonist in Randy Chalmers, former cop and alcoholic turned home designer and sober A.A. meeting attendee. Having sipped his last alcoholic drink eight years ago, Randy lives a comfortable existence in Laguna Beach with his also-sober yoga-instructor girlfriend, MP. But underneath Randy’s chill exterior and his life of espresso drinking amid lovely walnut furniture, there exists a simmering rage. And when tragedy occurs, that rage emerges as if it had never left.

The tragedy in this tale is the shocking death of Randy’s A.A. sponsor and best friend, Terry Elias. Years ago, Terry helped save Randy’s life when it seemed unsalvageable. Not only did he help Randy get sober, he encouraged him in his career turnaround after he was kicked off the police force for savagely beating a suspect. Terry was brother, father and mentor to Randy, all rolled up into one. And now he is dead—found in a hotel room, victim of an apparent heroin overdose a good 15 years after going sober. How could this be?

To Randy, it seems clear that there was foul play involved. And years after leaving the force, he slips back into his cop persona as he sets out to uncover what could have happened to his friend. Will he be able to accept the final answer? And can he avoid a relapse now that his first real link to the sober world is gone?

Randy’s journey is an absorbing one, peppered with an eclectic mix of supporting characters including his hapless friend (and fellow A.A. member) Wade; glamorous lesbian sister, Betsy; angry ex-wife, Jean; and precocious, beloved teenage daughter, Allison (aka Crash). Told in both present time and a series of flashbacks, the plot moves swiftly and keeps the reader interested in the outcome, even as the sometimes corny dialogue may lead to an eye-roll or two.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2012 January #2
A 12-stepping ex-cop goes on a grand tour of seedy Southern California to investigate his sponsor's shocking overdose. Randy, the hero of Barden's busy but engaging debut, has a lot of the trappings of a noir hero in the Chandler and Hammett vein: a sixth sense for telling when somebody's lying, women he's trying (and failing) to do right by and a hot temper that alternately helps and hurts him. The chief distinction here is that Randy is a recovering alcoholic, which gives this story a healthy amount of verve and black comedy. Rather than sounding preachy or cowed, Randy has the bravado and attitude of a man who's fighting hard for his sobriety. He's distraught to learn that his AA sponsor, Terry, died of a heroin overdose, and solving the mystery leads him into the worlds of recovery houses, pot dealers, pornographers and drug-enforcement agents. The multitude of threads Randy follows bog down the story somewhat, especially because little distinguishes the various bad guys--one SoCal goon is as craven and greedy as any other. But the novel has some solid anchors in Terry, whom Randy fondly remembers as a font of tough love, Randy's skeptical girlfriend Mary Pat and his daughter, Alison, who clarifies what the stakes are. More memorable than the plot or characters, though, is Randy's voice. Like many people in recovery, he spends a lot of time working through past errors and regrets (a violent drunken beating that got him booted from the force is just one), and he can be sanctimonious at times. But he's no cardboard AA spokesperson, and when he interacts with the young addicts slipping in and out of recovery, he underscores just how much of a struggle sobriety can be. A slightly clunky thriller that succeeds on the emotional and physical muscle of its narrator. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2011 October #1

Big-time Southern California homebuilder Randy Chalmers owes it all to friend, lawyer, and Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor Terry Elias. So when Terry is found dead of a heroin overdose after years of sobriety, Randy is not only shocked but angry enough to launch his own investigation (he's a former policeman). Sounds like a typical suspense novel, but since Jennifer Egan and Jonathan Lethem are raving about it, it's obviously something more.

[Page 55]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 April #2

In Barden's new novel (after John Wayne), Laguna Beach, Calif. cop-turned-homebuilder Randy Chalmers knows he owes his sobriety to his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor Terry Elias. But when Terry is found dead from a heroin overdose in a sleazy hotel room, Randy risks everything for answers in this hard-hitting tale of revenge and redemption. Clean for 15 years, Terry was a legend at AA, taking the newly sober under his wing. He guided Randy--who was thrown off the force for nearly beating a man to death --through his anger issues and helped him stay clean for eight years. But as Randy discovers, Terry wasn't as saintly as he appeared. Working off tips from fellow AA member Wade, Randy retraces Terry's last days. Refusing to believe that Terry would be caught up in drugs, Randy, with his single-minded determination to preserve Terry's memory, alienates those around him as he sinks back into old--and violent--habits. As his relationships with his girlfriend and his daughter become strained, and bodies start turning up, Randy must decide the price he's willing to pay to uncover the truth. Barden makes the addiction cycle as believable and painfully raw as possible, and as such his characters aren't necessarily likeable. But they ring true nonetheless. (Mar.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

In Barden's new novel (after John Wayne), Laguna Beach, Calif. cop-turned-homebuilder Randy Chalmers knows he owes his sobriety to his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor Terry Elias. But when Terry is found dead from a heroin overdose in a sleazy hotel room, Randy risks everything for answers in this hard-hitting tale of revenge and redemption. Clean for 15 years, Terry was a legend at AA, taking the newly sober under his wing. He guided Randy--who was thrown off the force for nearly beating a man to death --through his anger issues and helped him stay clean for eight years. But as Randy discovers, Terry wasn't as saintly as he appeared. Working off tips from fellow AA member Wade, Randy retraces Terry's last days. Refusing to believe that Terry would be caught up in drugs, Randy, with his single-minded determination to preserve Terry's memory, alienates those around him as he sinks back into old--and violent--habits. As his relationships with his girlfriend and his daughter become strained, and bodies start turning up, Randy must decide the price he's willing to pay to uncover the truth. Barden makes the addiction cycle as believable and painfully raw as possible, and as such his characters aren't necessarily likeable. But they ring true nonetheless. (Mar.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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