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Mark Pryor, “Dominic”

Disclosure: I did not read Hollow Man, the first in this series.

Firm belief: Reading the first is not necessary. I had no problem picking up on the backstory.

Opinion: This is tightly-written, smoothly-plotted book with more than a few cool twists and one tasty whopper at the end.

Dominic is big idea told at a small, believable, day-by-day scale. Yes, it’s a leap to believe that one of our narrators here (the main driving force of the book) is a prosecutor who also happens to be a psychopath. He’s also an Englishman who happens to work in Austin. Since it’s Austin, he’s also a musician—a guitarist and singer. A lot to handle? Not to worry. Mark Pryor pulls us in with a smooth style and sharply defined first-person voices.

Dominic  is a piece of work, both charming and lethal. Pryor gives us ample insight into Dominic’s interior space; our protagonist is fully self-aware, starting with the killer opening sentence: “The first time I realized my potential for manipulating people was at age eleven, when the headmaster at my prep school handed me a bowl of soup instead of a beating.”

His extreme level of self-awareness occasionally had me wondering how a guy with no feelings, no sense of empathy, understands himself so well. “As for my true self, well, I say that I’m a harmless, musically gifted but empathy-disabled Noussian. I take that from the word nous in Greek philosophy, representing mind or intellect. Not that I’m smarter than anyone else, but when you have no soul or spirit, well, there’s not much left to go on.”

I’ll leave the probable level of self-analysis of psychopaths to others and just say Pryor makes it work, in highly entertaining fashion.

We also get to see Dominic through his colleague Brian. “Dominic was watching me with that look he has … It’s a cross between looking right through you, and seeing everything you’re thinking.” Brian is us (and we are nervous because we know so much more than Brian does about the true nature of his cohort). It’s a terrific device.

The story involves the younger brother of a woman who is in a secret relationship with Dominic. Dominic is trying to keep the kid out of jail. The kid, Bobby, is a problem. Bobby thinks he’s smarter than the law. He is, in fact, a junior version of Dominic.  There are some references to the first book but we get the general idea, that Dominic wriggled out of being “framed.” Um, more like Dominic covered his tracks.

Well, trouble ahead. And when Bobby turns up dead, well, Dominic has to put an intricate plan in motion that can’t look like … an intricate plan in motion.

To complicate matters, Dominic and Brian are both after the same judgeship vacancy and, well, Dominic has ideas about how that friendly (not-so-friendly) competition will play out.  A key judge has been compromised and, well, opportunities abound. It doesn’t take us long to get the gist of this guy. He’s going to get his way.

Drop your guard a bit, and enjoy watch these guys (both Dominic and Mark Pryor) go to work.