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The Next Right Thing: A Novel
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The Next Right Thing: A Novel

3.37 of 5 stars 3.37  ·  rating details  ·  183 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Southern California home builder extraordinaire Randy Chalmers has to admit he’d be dead or in prison were it not for his best friend, lawyer, and Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Terry Elias. A former police officer, Randy narrowly escaped being an evening news highlight during years ravaged by anger and alcohol. Thanks to Terry’s coaching and an endless stream of caffeine-f ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by The Dial Press
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Feb 29, 2012 Kurt rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who love (and/or are part of) the Recovery Community.. who also don't read much
Recommended to Kurt by: Amazon Vine
I really didn't expect to finish this book. My impression for the first few chapters was, "Wow, this is like a regular bad airport paperback, but with added preachy Recovery jargon." Characters bounce around the various settings, not so much having conversations as quoting from the Big Book at each other. Even when they aren't spouting proverbs from 12-step programs, the dialogue is simply horrendous (for example, a young woman bursts into a scene to stop someone from hitting her friend, and whe ...more
I came across this novel at the LA Times Festival of Books. Dan Barden was on a crime fiction panel that I'd attended to see Denise Mina, and I was intrigued by his sense of humor and obvious dedication to the craft. He mentioned that as part of his preparation for writing, he typed up a number of his favorite crime novels to get them in his bones. One of these was The Long Goodbye, and the influence is neither disguised or overwhelming.

If you're looking for a whodunnit style thriller, where the
Peter Rosch
"Life for an alcoholic is often a process of discovering all the things that don't make a difference." So true, may sound grim to those of us not in the rooms, but this little nugget certainly struck a nerve with me.

It took me a while to get around to reading this book, let me explain: back in March I was killing time in a cool little book store, imagining what it would be like to see my own yet-unpublished debut novel sitting on the shelves. My head was in the clouds, and I knew I was only abo
Mark Soone
I won this book as part of a goodreads giveaway (Thank you Ashley!), but that in no way shape or form affected my rating or review of this book.

I wanted to like this book! I tried really hard to like this book...I set it down to allow another chance to like this book...but for me it fell just short. I appreciate the authors attempts to present AA (Alcoholics Annonymous) in a realistic light, as well as to bring a socially needed awarenees of AA and those who suffer from alcohol addictions (as we
A Hard-boiled crew of A.A. members? After so many mysteries filled with booze-fueled characters on both sides of the law, The Next Right Thing was a great breath of fresh air! Yeah, these folks might have left the bottle or other addictions, but they certainly kept all of their other rough edges. The dialogue is biting, the suspense is pressing, and the characters are shockingly real with heart, all while still avoiding sentimentality. Getting to the bottom of an unexplained death, while battlin ...more
Florence Wetzel
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway, and I'm glad I did. The book's premise--combine a character in 12-step recovery with a hardboiled, LA police story--is a great idea. The author is not afraid to show his characters in their worst moments, which just makes them more human. And he's also not afraid to show the possibility of redemption. Definitely a worthwhile, entertaining book.
Moira Russell
Mar 06, 2012 Moira Russell marked it as to-read
Shelves: ebook, on-the-kindle
Is it me or is nearly every single review on this goddamn site "I won this book in a giveaway!" (either FirstReads or Amazon Vine) now?
As they say "write about what you know" and that is what author Dan Barden did. He was an addict now recovering and knows all about 12 stepping. The story starts out with: Randy Chalmers, the main character finding out that his friend, and sponsor Terry Elias (a lawyer) died. It was thought he died of an overdose but Randy felt otherwise and he needed to find out the truth, was he murdered?.
This story is mesmerizing and has more twists that a pretzel. He finds his good friend may have been invol
Chris Witkowski
Even though it's billed as a mystery, this book isn't really one, not in the cops and robbers sense. But if you want to talk about the mystery of human behavior, this is the book for you. Set squarely among the culture of AA, the book chronicles the quest of protagonist Randy Chalmers,as he tries to figure out how his dearly loved sponsor of over 8 years, a man who had been sober for 15 years, could have died of a heroin overdose. In Randy's mind it's just not possible that his idol could have s ...more
I really wanted to give the very beginning of this book two and one half stars, then 3 stars for a while, and fours stars about half way in through to the end. I settled with four since I cannnot give three and one-half but wanted to include an explanation. Just in case you pick up the book, read the first few chapters and wonder if you really want the work it'll take to figure out what the author is actually saying or why does this guy call his daughter 'Crash' when no one else does? Which is n ...more
Is there any true recovery from addiction or do we just replace one addiction with another? The answer to this is at the root of Dan Barden's latest novel THE NEXT RIGHT THING. His protagonist, Randy Chalmers is an ex-cop and recovering alcoholic with an "untempered temper" whose best friend and AA sponsor Terry has been discovered dead from a drug overdose in a room at a less than reputable Laguna Beach hotel.

Randy appears to be driven to prove that Terry's death was a homicide in order to reas
Katie O
The book jacket bills this as a mystery starring Randy Chalmers, who investigates the shady circumstances surrounding his AA sponsor Terry’s death and uncovers a ring of pot dealers, shady recovery houses, pornography and love children. Sounds like a standard fun mystery/thriller about an ex-cop seeking justice, right? Only sort of. This book was not quite as advertised – it reads like a story primarily about recovery, with a mystery B plot.

Randy works his network of friends and acquaintances (a
Bonnie Brody
Randy Chalmers used to be a cop in the Los Angeles area. However, he lost his job for assaulting a Mexican civilian for no reason. He now is a wealthy home designer for the rich. Randy is also a recovering alcoholic and addict who is very much into Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and the twelve-step program. He has seven years of sobriety. His sponsor and mentor, Terry, has just died and the police are calling it an overdose on heroin. Randy knows that Terry would never have taken any heroin after hav ...more
The character Randy Chalmers in The Next Right Thing has anger issues. He was angry when he was a cop. He was angry when he was sent to AA. He was still angry when he became a contractor. He was always angry until Terry, his AA sponsor died. Randy was obsessed in finding why Terry decided to killed himself with an drug overdose. The more he inquired about Terry's death, the more suspicious characters are showing up. He was followed by someone he doesn't know. People he doesn't know are suddenly ...more
Ken Honeywell

If you’re not a heavy drinker or drug user, the prospect of spending nearly three hundred pages with a cast of characters comprised almost solely of alcoholics may seem depressing. The prospect of spending all those pages with mostly recovering alcoholics who made their acquaintances and forged their friendships in Alcoholics Anonymous–well, that may seem even more depressing. If the characters are reformed and all their self-destructive behavior takes place in the past, what
I won a copy of this book from First Reads on Goodreads.

First of all I have to say that it wasn't bad or good...more of an okay read. There was action & drama. There was a whole host of characters, but the downside to that in my opinion is that none of them were all that well developed with the exception of Randy the main character. His girlfriend MP, seemed important at the beginning of the book, but then she pretty much disappeared. I cound Troy & Emma to be the most fascinating charac
This who-done-it is set in Orange County and I liked seeing familiar places and stock characters in the book, but that wasn't enough to save it. The book has the makings of an exciting drama: an ex-cop recovering alcoholic who now designs houses is searching for a killer in the death of his friend, an ex-attorney, recovering alcoholic who over-dosed on heroin in a seedy Santa Ana motel. The problem is that the gruff exterior hides a philosopher who is constantly digressing to philosophize about ...more
This powerful novel deals with the ravages of addiction, and focuses on the degree with which AA is effective in aiding recovery. Anyone who has experienced addiction personally or observed it in a family member should read this book. It is a very honest look at what AA can do and more importantly cannot do. Also, it gets to the heart of the problem of addiction, which is that it is a lifelong disease for which there is no cure. Most addiction memoirs have happy endings or else they are not writ ...more
Jonathan Lethem called it “The Long Goodbye in rehab.” It strikes me more as Elinor Lipman’s The Family Man on a dry-drunk. Like Barden’s first novel, John Wayne: A Novel, it’s full of heart and wit. And there’s a kid named Danny. Lethem says it’s about the American heart, but I see it as a portrait of divine grace.

Okay, if I didn’t know the author, I might give it just 4 stars. Maybe. The structure is flawless, plot cinematic, and characters beautifully and believably drawn. So yeah. 5 stars,
I really enjoyed this surprisingly soulful page turner. It read like a cross between Elmore Leonard and Pema Chedron with the barest whiff of Carl Hiassen. Anti-hero Randy is sober but gets drunk on his own anger. Randy is trying to find out why his best friend and AA sponsor ODd on heroin. He suspects nefarious dealings and sets out to find them. Meanwhile the whole episode causes his anger management issues to flare out of control, jeopardizing his access to his beloved daughter. The whole ang ...more

Dan Barden’s The Next Right Thing is a page-turner, but not for the sake of plot. Randy Chalmers makes one bad decision after another—fully aware that he is destroying himself. The novel is about awareness—the disasters of addiction, of violence, of trying to make everything right. The novel is a quest to understand his mentor’s death from a heroin overdose; and the more he understands, the angrier he gets—at Terry (his AA mentor), at himself, at the corrupt world they inhabit. Chalmers in the e
The Next Right Thing is a whodunit with the added layer of the protagonist dealing with the ebb and flow of addiction and rehabilitation. Randy Chalmers is investigating the mysterious death of his A.A. sponsor, and the novel becomes the classic story of the man who goes on a journey to find out something about an external event only to find that the journey ultimately tells him something about himself; he finds what he is looking for, but it is not what he was looking for.

I liked the fact tha
I'm disappointed that I didn't really like this book because it was my choice for this month's book club selection. The synopsis didn't really do justice to what the book was actually about. I expected a whodunit, but that really isn't what the book turned out to be. I was continually confused about who was who and what their connection was to the story as a whole. The ending was disappointing because it was completely contradictive of the main character's purpose throughout the book. Maybe that ...more
David Dort
A cross-genre novel (Orange County recovery noir?) that details the spiritual and emotional free-fall of a recovering ex-cop (Randy Chalmers) in search for an explanation of (and those responsible for) his AA sponsor's heroin overdose amongst the background of wealthy suburban sleaze, The Next Right Thing is also a gleefully dark look at (as well as tribute to) the modern recovery movement and the ironic intimacy (and cult of personality) it creates. The novel is loaded with 12-step recovery jar ...more
PROTAGONIST: Randy Chalmers, home builder and recovering alcoholic
SETTING: California
WHY: Terry Elias has been sober for 15 years and is a respected sponsor at Alcoholics Anonymous. It doesn't make sense when he dies of a heroin overdose after all he's been through. A group of recovering addicts, led by Randy Chalmers who counted Terry as a best friend and mentor, try to figure out what happened. There are surprises along the way. It took me a while to get a handle on the
In this case, you can accurately judge the book by its cover: it's dark, but the style keeps it from being too dark and dramatic, and therefore the book as a whole doesn't have as serious of an effect as it potentially could.
Yoan Penchev
I've tried to read this s**t for just about 20 minutes but my brain rejected it like my stomach would reject rotten food. This book is like verbal diarrhea. Don't read it. Ever. Don't even think about reading it.
This novel gripped me from the first page. I liked that it oscillates between genres; a bit of mystery coupled with some elements of the noir genre on a AA meeting background. I really enjoyed it. Dan Barden did a wonderful job at creating believable characters. The relationship between Randy, recovering alcoholic and ex-cop, and his teenage daughter Crash was beautiful. All the characters had something to bring to the story and I was left with a very satisfying ending and an answer to my questi ...more
Very entertaining crime novel that is contemporary version of the classic hardboiled fiction of Chandler or MacDonald, maybe a little Elmore Leonard thrown in. Much of the action is hung on the environment of AA and recovery, but I wouldn't say that it is a novel about addiction or recovery. Like a lot of classic noir protagonists, Randy Chalmers is trying to avoid self destructive behavior. The cast of misfits and miscreants is colorful and the tension is strong as Chalmers struggles to solve t ...more
Chris Huntington
This book is a crazy mix of style and content --it's a very satisfying mystery (of sorts) but it's got this under-layer of almost religious intensity to it --there will be wonderfully observed detail (""a guy who pitches his case to your girlfriend") and Mamet-like alpha male dialogue of a dirty but healing California AND there is a holy grailquest as the hero struggles with life and brotherly love and failure. In the end, I thought it was completely original --I want to compare it to things lik ...more
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