Book Review – Nick of Time

Nick Polchak is one of the best literary characters ever.

Had to say it.

I’ve talked about Tim Downs before, and he is one of my favorite authors. He produces suspense fiction with wit and humor, along with some nice gory details about decomposing bodies.

This is because the protaganist of most of his novels is Dr. Nick Polchak, also known as the “Bug Man.” He’s a forensic entomologist, meaning he studies the insects that are drawn to corpses. It is a niche that Downs ably uses to give just enough tecnical jargon to help the reader really buy it.

Polchak also has one of the lowest social IQ’s ever seen. He has a minimal filter – he says what he wants and has a great wit. The result is he is funnier than all get-out, and makes each Bug Man novel a joy to read, but a challenge to read in public (didn’t want my recent airplane neighbor freaking out over my chuckling.)

In Nick of Time, it leads off of events of the Bug Man books Less the Dead and Ends of the Earth. Spoilers for those who haven’t read those books – Nick is getting married! Even the clueless Dr. Polchak may have a soul mate in Alena Savard, a woman who grew up on a mountain alone with dozens of dogs that she trains.

With his wedding a week away, he is invited to a forensics conference by an old friend for a consult on a cold case. Over Alena’s protests, Nick heads there only to find his friend dead.

Now he is off to find out what was happening with the cold case to see if there’s a connection. Meanwhile, Alena is panicking over the lack of a groom, and with the happy date approaching, she sets off to find him – along with three of her best tracking dogs.

Nick’s going to learn if he wants to be married, if it doesn’t kill him first…

Downs continues a strong run in the Bug Man series. Fans will find their favorite points intact: humor, suspense, mysteries for Nick to solve, and some big twists along the way. First time readers should pick the book up just fine, despite it building off of older novels. If you can read the others first then it will make more sense, but he writes in such a way that it isn’t necessary.

The plot is a little incredible at times, but Downs has this character, um, down. Nick is very enjoyable as he says the things we could never get away with, and the plot moves quickly without any slow points. Alena is a strong counterpoint to Nick, although sometimes she sounds too much like him (sarcastic, not caring what people think). Nick even has an epiphany of sorts, and it will be interesting to see where it takes him.

Nick of Time was a great read, comfortable as a well-worn pair of jeans. Prior readers won’t be disappointed, and new readers should fit right in to Nick’s insect world. Fans of suspense and CSI-type shows will be well-served with Tim Downs latest.

Book Review – Nick of Time

Nick Polchak is one of the best literary characters ever.

Had to say it.

I’ve talked about Tim Downs before, and he is one of my favorite authors. He produces suspense fiction with wit and humor, along with some nice gory details about decomposing bodies.

This is because the protaganist of most of his novels is Dr. Nick Polchak, also known as the “Bug Man.” He’s a forensic entomologist, meaning he studies the insects that are drawn to corpses. It is a niche that Downs ably uses to give just enough tecnical jargon to help the reader really buy it.

Polchak also has one of the lowest social IQ’s ever seen. He has a minimal filter – he says what he wants and has a great wit. The result is he is funnier than all get-out, and makes each Bug Man novel a joy to read, but a challenge to read in public (didn’t want my recent airplane neighbor freaking out over my chuckling.)

In Nick of Time, it leads off of events of the Bug Man books Less the Dead and Ends of the Earth. Spoilers for those who haven’t read those books – Nick is getting married! Even the clueless Dr. Polchak may have a soul mate in Alena Savard, a woman who grew up on a mountain alone with dozens of dogs that she trains.

With his wedding a week away, he is invited to a forensics conference by an old friend for a consult on a cold case. Over Alena’s protests, Nick heads there only to find his friend dead.

Now he is off to find out what was happening with the cold case to see if there’s a connection. Meanwhile, Alena is panicking over the lack of a groom, and with the happy date approaching, she sets off to find him – along with three of her best tracking dogs.

Nick’s going to learn if he wants to be married, if it doesn’t kill him first…

Downs continues a strong run in the Bug Man series. Fans will find their favorite points intact: humor, suspense, mysteries for Nick to solve, and some big twists along the way. First time readers should pick the book up just fine, despite it building off of older novels. If you can read the others first then it will make more sense, but he writes in such a way that it isn’t necessary.

The plot is a little incredible at times, but Downs has this character, um, down. Nick is very enjoyable as he says the things we could never get away with, and the plot moves quickly without any slow points. Alena is a strong counterpoint to Nick, although sometimes she sounds too much like him (sarcastic, not caring what people think). Nick even has an epiphany of sorts, and it will be interesting to see where it takes him.

Nick of Time was a great read, comfortable as a well-worn pair of jeans. Prior readers won’t be disappointed, and new readers should fit right in to Nick’s insect world. Fans of suspense and CSI-type shows will be well-served with Tim Downs latest.

Tim Downs – Head Game

A day late and a dollar…

So I said on Monday I’d be posting about my favorite book of the year (that wasn’t published in ’09), and my favorite author.
Head Game by Tim Downs was published in 2006. Right before that, I became a fan of Tim Downs after reading his book Plague Maker, a taut thriller about biological warfare, revenge, and forgiveness. I kept my eye out on his books even as I missed reading Head Game. Last year one of the blog tours I participate in offered his latest book Less Than Dead , which continued with his famous “Bug Man” character, forensic entomologist Nick Polchak. That book ended up my favorite for 2008. I also really enjoyed the follow up book to it, Ends of the Earth just recently.

Head Game is a different book from his previous tales. It starts with an unusual twist – a suicide note in the form of a comic book (drawn by Downs himself, who was a former cartoonist!). It then follows Cale Caldwell, a member of a 3 person PsyOps (psychological operations) unit from Desert Storm. He had recently moved to Charlotte, NC, with his beloved wife and 13 year old daughter. A drunk driver tragically took his wife, and now a grieving Cale is struggling to connect with his depressed teenager.

Soon he finds obstacles that he can’t believe – his daughter is turned against him, his new job is in jeopardy, and he finds secrets about people in his past that shake him to the core. He doesn’t realize that someone has learned the game of psy-ops, and now he is the target.

Downs is very, VERY good at his research and weaving it in seamlessly into his novel. Even though we see some events from the perspective of the bad guy, and we think we know what is going to happen, he plays out the suspense skillfully. The thrills build up until a dramatic final conflict that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat and their heads spinning with twists and turns.

The only thing that lacks is some of the great humor he writes for Nick Polchak, but the book really doesn’t lend itself to that. Still, his wit is clear at times.

Tim Downs is probably my favorite author right now. Between the way he writes with humor and intelligence, with great suspense and rich characters, I am really trying to take in his writing style and understand his craft. He also manages to pluck the heart strings with themes of hope, forgiveness, fear, and love. He is never overt in his spirituality, but he always manages to apply subtle tones of God in there. I’ve seen critiques of his work that he really doesn’t put Christianity in his books. I disagree. It is there, but his books are not meant to be a neon sign to follow, but gentle hints and teases that make us long for the destination. He’s not going to spell it out, but he’ll carefully and cleverly reveal a Hand at work.
I don’t hear a lot about Tim Downs within the CBA community. Like Tom Morrisey, Downs seems to operate under the radar, without the fanfare of a Ted Dekker or Frank Peretti. This is too bad, because between the thrillers Head Game and Plague Maker, and the Bug Man books, Tim Downs is one of the best authors out there. Check him out!

Tim Downs – Head Game

A day late and a dollar…

So I said on Monday I’d be posting about my favorite book of the year (that wasn’t published in ’09), and my favorite author.
Head Game by Tim Downs was published in 2006. Right before that, I became a fan of Tim Downs after reading his book Plague Maker, a taut thriller about biological warfare, revenge, and forgiveness. I kept my eye out on his books even as I missed reading Head Game. Last year one of the blog tours I participate in offered his latest book Less Than Dead , which continued with his famous “Bug Man” character, forensic entomologist Nick Polchak. That book ended up my favorite for 2008. I also really enjoyed the follow up book to it, Ends of the Earth just recently.

Head Game is a different book from his previous tales. It starts with an unusual twist – a suicide note in the form of a comic book (drawn by Downs himself, who was a former cartoonist!). It then follows Cale Caldwell, a member of a 3 person PsyOps (psychological operations) unit from Desert Storm. He had recently moved to Charlotte, NC, with his beloved wife and 13 year old daughter. A drunk driver tragically took his wife, and now a grieving Cale is struggling to connect with his depressed teenager.

Soon he finds obstacles that he can’t believe – his daughter is turned against him, his new job is in jeopardy, and he finds secrets about people in his past that shake him to the core. He doesn’t realize that someone has learned the game of psy-ops, and now he is the target.

Downs is very, VERY good at his research and weaving it in seamlessly into his novel. Even though we see some events from the perspective of the bad guy, and we think we know what is going to happen, he plays out the suspense skillfully. The thrills build up until a dramatic final conflict that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat and their heads spinning with twists and turns.

The only thing that lacks is some of the great humor he writes for Nick Polchak, but the book really doesn’t lend itself to that. Still, his wit is clear at times.

Tim Downs is probably my favorite author right now. Between the way he writes with humor and intelligence, with great suspense and rich characters, I am really trying to take in his writing style and understand his craft. He also manages to pluck the heart strings with themes of hope, forgiveness, fear, and love. He is never overt in his spirituality, but he always manages to apply subtle tones of God in there. I’ve seen critiques of his work that he really doesn’t put Christianity in his books. I disagree. It is there, but his books are not meant to be a neon sign to follow, but gentle hints and teases that make us long for the destination. He’s not going to spell it out, but he’ll carefully and cleverly reveal a Hand at work.
I don’t hear a lot about Tim Downs within the CBA community. Like Tom Morrisey, Downs seems to operate under the radar, without the fanfare of a Ted Dekker or Frank Peretti. This is too bad, because between the thrillers Head Game and Plague Maker, and the Bug Man books, Tim Downs is one of the best authors out there. Check him out!