In this second dip into Park City’s lesser side (the novel Porndance being author Zach Matheson’s first), we get not-quite-sleezy but disenchanted detective Lincoln Coulter (Link) fishing on his day off. This is a murder mystery, so we enjoy this brief calm before the world of Matheson opens up and swallows every ounce of innocence in us. Like an old Mike Shayne novel, we enter a land of private eyes, sultry, dead beauties, shady lawyers and a reluctant good guy. I like to think of it as the world Bruce Willis lives in … in his head. In this sense, welcome to The Case of the Dead Yoga Instructor.
If you haven’t read Matheson, you’ll quickly learn that his characters are aware to a fault and have specific and skeptical views on their environments. This, as a reader, can almost feel like a consistent attack of opinions. In a detective novel, it is important for the reader to be snuggled up next to the head of the protagonist. We need to solve the puzzle at the same rate they do. Conversely, we get everything else in their heads, and you may get trapped in a pattern of arguing with the character instead of sitting back and enjoying the ride. This is the way Matheson chooses to draw you into the ideas he’s exercising in Heatwave. Whether you like them or not, Matheson has you thinking about his characters.
The big step forward for this book is story. The web of interactions is much more developed compared to Matheson’s previous work, and we feel as if we flow with the plot instead of being pulled along with it. Matheson displays Park City with such intimacy that this book hardly seems like fiction at points. Heatwave feels quite personal at times, as if this all really happened and the names were changed at the last minute before printing. There is a scene where the detective is so wrapped up in someone’s fake tan that he can hardly focus on the dead body in front of him. Moments like these feel so unnatural they have to be … natural.
Heatwave is a type of voyeurism. The reader initially glances into this book and instantly wants to pull the curtains shut. But Heatwave sticks with us, so we pull the curtains back again and peer through its pages. We become consumed by its deviant behavior, its twisted tale. The reader is the fly on the wall that can read minds, the second detective. It would be silly for the book not to enlist your services. You will solve The Case of the Dead Yoga Instructor … or, at least, you should. –Benjamin Tilton