By Richard G. Opper
Reviewed by Pennell Paugh
December 4, 2022 (San Diego) -- The Body in the Barrel is a compelling crime novel set in 1973 in San Diego.
The book opens on October 15, 1973: “I shifted the Smith & Wesson Model 10 to a more comfortable place on my hip, which was feeling tender this morning. The bay had a smell of rotting plants, and together with the smell of the diesel it triggered thoughts about the Mekong—which was not so long ago, even if it was half a world away. It was the reason my hip ached, but that life was over. I was back home in San Diego, and glad for it. Whatever I’d thought I was going to accomplish in the Navy’s swift boats turned out to be a bad dream. A nightmare. So, the fact that I ended up in the Harbor Police is a whole lot better—but still a whole lot of not much. I was out of the shit storm and into a more peaceful life, but for crying out loud, at twenty-eight here I was with nothing really going on, already going nowhere. But who cared? Other than my dad, I guess, and that only went so far.”
The investigation connects the kidnapping of a single-mother’s child ten years earlier to current day crimes. As the story unfolds, Opper reports events through the close point of view of the involved characters, including the kidnapper. A romance blossoms between a Harbor cop and the single-mother whose 3-year-old daughter was kidnapped in the 1960s and never found. Though she is a bar owner and producer of X-rated films, the cop joins with the woman to unearth the past about her lost daughter. Each struggles to make peace with turbulent histories.
I found the author’s approach to telling this story is unique and highly engaging. It was a fun read all the way through.
Opper, a lawyer specializing in environmental law in San Diego, is a former professional photographer and TV-show host. He has published articles in the San Diego Union Tribune and professional journals. The Body in the Barrel is his first novel. He resides in San Diego and is a member of the San Diego Writers and Editors Guild.
Richard G. Opper, will be signing copies of his new book, The Body in the Barrel, as part of the Point Loma Assembly’s Holiday Event held on December 8th from 5 to 7 pm. If you’d like to join the party (and perhaps acquire a copy) drop by at 3035 Talbot St. in Point Loma. See you there.