"You know what? The bastard blows me out of the water. This guy writes Maine like Ardai writes New York. If you're not reading him, you don't know what you're missing." --Chris F. Holm, author of "The Collector" series, The Killing Kind, and Red Right Hand.

"A refreshingly new voice in noir." --Ed Kurtz, author of Nothing You Can Do and The Rib From Which I Remake the World.

"A glorious boilermaker of noir and East Coast gothic. The action is taut as a sprung snare and Bagley tightens the screws with every page." -- Laird Barron, author of Swift to Chase and Blood Standard.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

An Unpublished Review

I was cleaning out some old files this morning when I came across this book review I wrote almost two years ago. It was written for a magazine that never used it. Re-reading the piece now, for the first time since I turned it in, I don’t think it’s all that bad.

Ken Bruen and Jason Starr
October 2, 2007
Hard Case Crime/Dorchester

When last we saw Max Fisher and Angela Petrakos (in Bust, 2006), their fortunes had taken a nosedive. Max lost his computer company and narrowly escaped a murder rap for the deaths of his wife and her cousin. After learning the hard way that immersion in Drano is not the best method of dissolving a corpse and that wheelchair-ridden metalheads sometimes have issues, Angie swiped ten grand from Max and high-tailed it to Ireland. As Slide opens, both of these characters are lower than they’ve ever been.

Max wakes up hung over in an Alabama motel room with no memory of how he got there. His wallet is empty. His ass is sore, and the Chinese guy the clerk says he checked in with is long gone. Max’s brilliant plan for getting back to Manhattan is to mug the chambermaid and hop a Greyhound.

Angie is in Ireland, down to her last few Euros. Tired of waiting for a rich man to come along and give her a nice home and happy children, she decides to be more aggressive. Unfortunately, the man she targets, a guy who calls himself Slide, is in the kidnapping business. Slide hasn’t had much success as a kidnapper, mostly because he keeps butchering his victims. Angie doesn’t know this, though. When Slide suggests kidnapping Keith Richards, she goes along with the plan. It sounded like a good idea after all that Jameson’s.

Max sets himself up as a crack dealer, getting his stuff from an evangelical Southerner. He’s back on top, living in a penthouse, rolling in money and insisting everyone call him “The M.A.X.” He has even found a silicone-enhanced replacement for Angie (whom he hates but can’t stop thinking about). Things go sour when some Colombians demand a meeting and Max’s new girlfriend gets ideas of her own.

Slide and Angie come to the States when things get too hot in Ireland, the Keith Richards job having gone balls-up. Slide tries to go native, figuring it will help him fulfill his dream of becoming a famous serial killer. For a while, Angie believes Slide will set her up in a big house, just like in The Sopranos. She leaps to a few faulty conclusions about her new man, but he turns out be even worse than she’d imagined.

Bruen and Starr once again prove that they are the masters of dark humor and even darker motives. The characters will often make you laugh out loud, but you are never allowed to forget that these are bad motherfuckers; while you’re laughing, you’re also feeling a twinge of unease in your guts.

Two of the funniest moments come in the brutal killings of a pair of well-known crime writers. One, “a thin figure, leather jacket, shades, white hair, skinny as a rodent, lined face,” gets greased in Dublin. The other, a guy with “long straight hair, a strong jaw—kind of looked like a poor man’s Fabio,” meets his end behind a Dumpster in New York. The writers are never named, but you’ll figure out their identities.

The prose is as taut as piano wire digging into your neck. The dialogue burns. Max and Angie cross paths once again, but not in a way you will expect. Slide is one of those rare sequels that lives up to the excellence of its predecessor and, at times, surpasses it. Best of all, Bruen and Starr have left room for a third novel. Let us hope these twisted noir geniuses team up again soon.


Chris said...

Nice. It's a review befitting the book, and that's saying something.

Cullen Gallagher said...

I agree - I liked this even more than BUST. I also rather liked THE MAX, and am eagerly looking forward to a fourth novel in the series.

Thanks for the review!

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

I haven't read THE MAX yet. My local bookstore never carried it and I keep forgetting to order a copy.