Deliciously pernicious, archly melodramatic mean-streets revenger: Teran’s second helping of flawed, brutal L.A. noir is just as annoyingly good as his first (God is a Bullet, 1999).
“We’re going to kill a man tomorrow night . . . it won’t be easy, I know,” homicidal, near-deaf speed-freak Dee Storey lovingly tells her 13-year-old daughter. Dee hopes that Shay will be thrilled that Mom is using her as bait, but though Shay has let her mother rent her to pornographers and perverts, she’s nervous about luring trusting L.A. county sheriff John Scully to an empty patch of desert near Baker City. When she does, overwhelmed by the horror of the deed, Shay can’t administer a final coup de grâce. Left for dead, Scully crawls out of a shallow grave, then finds himself disgraced when evidence turns up that suggests, though doesn’t quite prove, that he was involved in drug dealing. Scully realizes he’s been set up but loses everything—until, 11 years later, crusading, agoraphobic journalist William Worth, a.k.a. Landshark, finds Scully and offers proof that he was a patsy for a vicious plot that succeeded in weakening the state’s case against Charlie Foreman, a loathsome drug-dealer punk linked by sex and drugs to a variety of abominable sociopaths, including former cop and yuppie-slime developer Burgess Ridden. As Landshark tries to persuade the burned-out Scully to help him fight the good fight, Foreman decides to blackmail Ridden over money the developer pocketed from construction projects built on environmentally contaminated land. When he isn’t dropping deathless howlers (“Death has no partners and seeks out the slender dares we pitch against it”), Teran snarls his complicated tale around Shay, who is trying forget her awful childhood and lead an honest life. Alas, just when Shay thinks she’s out, Mom comes to drag her back in.
Shopworn, stumblebum prose redeemed by a manic mix of horrific violence, gross-out detail, and a crowd-pleasing sentiment.