Burt Weissbourd – Danger in Plain Sight
It is appropriate for a reviewer to judge a work by the standards of its style or genre. You wouldn’t judge the worth of a mystery by the standards defining first rate science fiction or literary fiction, for instance. The key difference separating the thriller and other genres from literary fiction lies in how the former relies on established time-tested formulas. We see that in Burt Weissbourd’s Danger in Plain Sight, the author’s fifth novel overall and first in a new series revolving around Seattle restaurateur Callie James. Much of the new novel obeys traditional “rules” for thriller novels, but there are crucial parts of the book separating it from run of the mill efforts in the genre.
Weissbourd pays far more attention to character than plot. This isn’t to say that Danger in Plain Sight’s plot is an afterthought but, instead, Weissbourd doesn’t devote the bulk of his efforts towards creating an intricate Swiss watch plot at the expense of turning his characters into ciphers he indiscriminately moves from one plot device to another. Instead, he builds a solid plot revolving around credible events and makes his characters layered flesh and blood individuals caught up in circumstances seemingly beyond their control. These are not bulletproof protagonists. They take their lumps, sometimes literally, feel stricken with doubt and fear, and grow over the course of the novel.
It is a brief read. Weissbourd avoids any sideshows or self-indulgent tangents in favor of maintaining a fast pace that keeps readers involved. He has refined his prose to the point where readers will experience difficulty identifying extraneous words or scenes. Everything included in Danger in Plain Sight is functional, nothing is ornamental. He does a great job bringing the city of Seattle and its surrounding environment alive for readers; a sense of place is always a hallmark of works in this vein and Weissbourd’s descriptions provoke readers’ imaginations.
There is an effective synthesis of dialogue and description throughout the novel. The dialogue has plenty of zip without ever sounding like gratuitous and Weissbourd’s descriptions avoid any poetic conceits while still painting vivid pictures for readers. The general prose style driving Danger in Plain Sight is low key and conversational; Weissbourd eschews any sort of “showing off” for his audience and maintains a consistent voice for the entire book. The third person point of view is a good choice for the book as Weissbourd would have limited himself far too much in the first person mode; third person allows him a cinematic scope other choices would have denied him.
It’s an excellent debut for Callie James. Burt Weissbourd has immense confidence in his character and her fictional world that he communicates at every turn. The book is obviously the result of a great deal of thought before he ever set a word to paper and it sets the series up nicely for future entries. Readers will know early on they are in the hands of a self-assured author with Danger in Plain Sight and, without a doubt, will come back for more.