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Reviewed by Saifunnissa Hassam for Readers' Favorite
Dwaine Rieves' Shirtless Men Drink Free is set in Georgia with the 2004 election race for governor as the backdrop. Dr. Jane Beekman and her husband, Dr. Price Beekman, are pathologists and co-founders of their biotechnology company Cellsure. Jackson Beekman, Price's younger brother, is the state's attorney general and is running for governor. Jane joins the campaign and focuses on public health issues. Price and Jackson's father Lucius died several years ago when Price was a young boy and Jackson was not yet born. As they grew up, the brothers drifted apart and matters worsen as the campaign takes off. Jackson's stand on specific issues puzzles and angers Jane, Price, and the campaign staff, as it seems at odds with their discussions. The novel reaches a terrifying climax when the past resurfaces and their lives spin out of control.
Shirtless Men Drink Free is a richly detailed and well-crafted story of personal relationships set against a political background. I like the way Rieves creates the complex characters of Jane, Price, and Jackson by drawing on their everyday lives, professions, relationships, and the impact of the political campaign on their lives. The momentum and tension in the story grow both through the lives of the characters and as Rieves uses the political backdrop to bring in differences in opinions and gray areas within relationships and politics. The past is always present as an undercurrent in the novel, and Rieves increases the tension and pace as that past works its way deeper into the story and, in one terrifying day, explodes in the center of the lives of Jane, Price, and Jackson. A very thought-provoking novel of human nature and relationships.