Benoit, Charles

views updated

Benoit, Charles

PERSONAL:

Married; wife's name Rose. Hobbies and other interests: Traveling, scuba diving, playing the saxophone.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Rochester, NY. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer and cartoonist. Has worked in education and advertising.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Top mysteries of 2004 list, Deadly Pleasure, and top-ten new mysteries for 2004, Booklist, both for Relative Danger; Communicator Award of Distinction, "The Smart Set" radio show (Rochester, NY).

WRITINGS:

Relative Danger (novel), Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2004.

Out of Order, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2006.

Noble Lies, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2007.

Has also written short stories.

SIDELIGHTS:

Charles Benoit is the author of mystery novels, including the well-received debut novel, Relative Danger. Benoit posits an unlikely hero for his international tale: Doug Pearce is an unemployed brewery worker living in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, who is propelled into a dangerous game of international intrigue as he hunts for the killer of his uncle, shot in 1948. Doug's trip is financed by the exotic and mysterious Edna, who wants to clear the uncle's name, but also hopes to find out what happened to the eighty-carat Red Diamond in the man's possession when he was killed. On the hunt for the diamond, Doug sets off for Casablanca. The trail takes him to Morocco and Bahrain, and ends up in Singapore, where his uncle was killed. Along the way, he has affairs and narrow escapes, and knows that somebody is shadowing his every move.

Harriet Klausner, reviewing the mystery for AllReaders.com, called Relative Danger an "enjoyable action thriller starring a protagonist who is ill equipped to proceed on his quest but surmounts his own naivety." For Dick Adler of the Chicago Tribune, it is this very cluelessness on the part of the protagonist that makes the book work. He wrote, "Among the many pleasures of Charles Benoit's mystery debut is the fact that his hero … doesn't morph overnight into some incredibly slick international operator." Strong praise came from Booklist critic Jenny McLarin, who wondered, "Where has Benoit been hiding?" McLarin called Relative Danger a "captivating debut," and further noted that "readers will eagerly await more from the very talented Benoit." Similarly, a Publishers Weekly reviewer called the novel "smashingly good" and "action-packed," and desired from Benoit "more adventure-oriented mysteries with the same skill and energy that propel this excellent debut."

Benoit told CA: "My wife and I were living in Kuwait, a place not known for its swinging nightlife. I started writing Relative Danger to fill the time and because I was tired of reading mysteries with almost super-hero protagonists, the kind of book that makes you feel less of a man because you don't know nine ways to kill someone with a toothpick. I wanted to create a protagonist that was so painfully average that anyone reading it could think, ‘Hey, if he could do it maybe I could too.’ Of course Doug proves to be a bit more resourceful than we expect, just like most people we take for granted.

"Research is my favorite form of procrastination and since I like writing globetrotting adventures, research for me means extensive travel. I spent considerable time in the places I describe in Relative Danger, the one exception being the Egyptian jail. That was based on other jails I have known. Someday I may be talented enough to describe places I haven't seen, but until then, I'll keep my bags packed and my passport handy."

Benoit presents another clueless protagonist thrust into a situation over his head in his second mystery/thriller, Out of Order. The book features Jason Talley, twenty-seven and "a nerdy … loan processor," as a Publishers Weekly reviewer described him. When his neighbors, Sriram and Vidya Sundaram, are discovered dead, police believe it to be a murder-suicide. Jason, a friend of the couple, takes it upon himself to deliver an ornamental sari to Sriram's mother in India, a noble gesture that has dangerous results. In India, he soon learns that Sriram had numerous enemies and that his death was not as it appeared to be. Jason also meets up with daring Rachel Moore, and together they fall into more adventures and narrow escapes than Jason has ever dreamed of. The Publishers Weekly reviewer termed Out of Order an "assured second mystery" and a "spicy quest tale in an India at once modern and ancient." However, McLarin, again writing in Booklist, was less impressed with this sophomore effort, calling it a "disappointment" and "tiresomely similar" to Benoit's debut. Still, she also felt that "the engaging tour of India's back roads helps offset the deja vu." Writing in Best Reviews, Harriet Klausner had a much higher assessment of Out of Order, calling it a "fabulous thriller starring an individual whose entire life has been planned to the nanosecond until he goes to India." Similarly, Linnea Dodson, writing for Reviewing the Evidence, felt that "fans of madcap hijinks will enjoy watching Jason rebuild his life as he is ripped completely free of everything he thought was important."

In his 2007 novel, Noble Lies, Benoit offers a protagonist the polar opposite of those in his first two books. A decorated veteran of Desert Storm, Mark Rohr knows his way around violence. The last decade his life has been one misadventure after the other, and he now finds himself as a bouncer in a brothel/bar in Thailand. The beautiful Robin Antonucci comes to him with a job offer to find her brother Shawn, missing since the powerful tsunami that devastated the region. Mark takes the job and soon tracks down a woman who claims to be Shawn's wife. But events quickly overtake Mark: the powerful gangster Jarin is after Mark, and the body count quickly rises. Soon Mark, Robin, Shawn's wife, an old man, and a young boy are on the run, staying one step ahead of Jarin while trying to discover the truth about Shawn. Reviewers responded warmly to this offering. A Kirkus Reviews critic found Noble Lies "a tense and efficient cat-and-mouse mystery … with liberal doses of exotic local color," while Booklist contributor David Pitt termed it "a very good thriller, excitingly written with well-drawn characters, dialogue that rings true, and a story that's suspenseful and tragic." Similar praise came from a Publishers Weekly contributor who concluded: "The lovingly rendered exotic locale is the perfect setting for this rough and rollicking story of adventure and romance."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 1, 2004, Jenny McLarin, review of Relative Danger, p. 953; February 1, 2006, Jenny McLarin, review of Out of Order, p. 35; August 1, 2007, David Pitt, review of Noble Lies, p. 48.

Bookseller, December 14, 2007, review of Noble Lies, p. 10.

Chicago Tribune, February 22, 2004, Dick Adler, review of Relative Danger, p. 2.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2007, review of Noble Lies. Library Journal, February 1, 2006, Jo Ann Vicarel, review of Out of Order, p. 58.

Publishers Weekly, January 26, 2004, review of Relative Danger, p. 234; December 19, 2005, review of Out of Order, p. 45; July 16, 2007, review of Noble Lies, p. 148.

ONLINE

AllReaders.com, http://www.allreaders.com/ (October 8, 2004), Harriet Klausner, review of Relative Danger.

Best Reviews, http://www.thebestreviews.com/ (May 16, 2006), review of Out of Order.

BookBrowse.com, http://bookbrowse.com/ (October 8, 2004), "Charles Benoit."

BookLoons, http://www.bookloons.com/ (April 14, 2008), Mary Ann Smyth, review of Noble Lies.

Charles Benoit Home Page, http://www.charlesbenoit.com (April 14, 2008).

MyShelf.com, http://www.myshelf.com/ (April 14, 2008), review of Out of Order.

Mysterious Reviews, http://www.mysteriousreviews.com/ (April 14, 2008), review of Noble Lies.

Reviewing the Evidence, http://www.reviewingtheevidence.com/ (April 14, 2008), Linnea Dodson, review of Out of Order, and Sarah Dudley, review of Noble Lies.