Review

Dot Dead: A Silicon Valley Mystery

by Keith Raffel



Keith Raffel is a low-key genius. The founder of UpShot
Corporation, he guided the development of a customer relations
management system that set the standard for the industry. I wasn't
sure how that background, impressive as it is, would translate into
a readable mystery. I found out when I cracked the binding of DOT
DEAD at 9:00 pm on a Wednesday night, intending to read a few pages
before falling asleep. I wound up reading until midnight and then
got up at 4:00 am to finish it. I simply could not wait to see how
it would end, and why. The loss of sleep was well worth it.

DOT DEAD is told in the voice of Ian Michaels, a Silicon Valley
wonderkid who works for one of the hottest tech firms on the planet
and under one of its brightest lights, a Bill Gates-inspired figure
named Paul Berk. Berk is more than a boss or a mentor to Michaels
--- he is also his friend. Michaels is doing quite well until he
returns home one afternoon and finds a lifeless Gwendolyn Goldberg
on his bed. Goldberg was Michaels's part-time housekeeper, though
he had never met her. More surprises await Michaels. Goldberg's
family and ex-boyfriend insist that she spoke often of Michaels,
and inferred that they were lovers. This puts Michaels at the top
of the suspect list, a position that's solidified when additional
evidence is found that seems to confirm that he and Goldberg had a
relationship.

Michaels wants to prove his innocence, but he's driven even more so
by a desire to see that justice is done for the victim. Goldberg's
sister, Rowena, is there to help --- with the investigation, and
maybe more --- as is, surprisingly enough, a policewoman
investigating the case. Michaels has other difficulties, however.
Berk's wife Cathy, a woman who Michaels silently admires from afar,
has started to come on to him. Additionally, Michaels is approached
with a business proposition that could benefit him but would be
detrimental to Berk.

The main issue here though is the whodunit aspect of the novel, and
it is one that Raffel handles as deftly as any you'll read this
year. His narrative is resoundingly confident, with nary a misstep
and never a wasted or boring word. He takes a classic plotline,
injects it into a unique and unexpected setting --- it really
shouldn't work, but it does and quite well --- and gives things a
twist or two. DOT DEAD also deals, quietly but effectively, with
spiritual and ethical concerns, infusing them into the narrative
without overwhelming it. The end result is without question the
most impressive mystery debut of the year.

DOT DEAD is subtitled "A Silicon Valley Mystery." I don't believe
that this necessarily heralds a sequel with the same characters so
much as the same setting. But whatever Raffel chooses to do will be
most welcome.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011

Dot Dead: A Silicon Valley Mystery
by Keith Raffel

  • Publication Date: July 8, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: MIDNIGHT INK
  • ISBN-10: 073870833X
  • ISBN-13: 9780738708331