Schow is an acquired taste, to be sure. But as splatterpunk goes, this book won't be outdone. It's got more attitude than...

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UPGUNNED

Forced at gunpoint to take blackmail shots of high-ranking L.A. cop Dominic Sharps and a prostitute in flagrante delicto—a shoot that requires some improvising since Sharps had a fatal heart attack on the way to the studio—postmodern-chic photographer Elias McCabe runs for his life. Good idea since everyone he knows, including the most beautiful girls, is being indifferently slit, stabbed and shot to death by his pursuers.

A novelist (Internecine, 2010, etc.) and screenwriter (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning), Schow applies the "splatterpunk" style he helped create to this sardonic L.A. noir. McCabe, who paid his dues working for publications like Wet 'N Squishy and Nipplemania, has opened up his own studio in Los Angeles. He's got money, girls and a reputation (one of his masterworks superimposes naked bodies on shooting-gallery targets). When we meet him, he's climbing out of bed with the ex-wife of his mentor. Enter Chambers, a hit man working for an obese vegetarian who has been asked by powerful outside forces to ruin counterterrorism chief Sharps' reputation before a visit by the president. Chambers threatens to shoot McCabe with his beloved Kimber Pro Tactical 1911 .45 ACP if he doesn't accept an assignment that actually will pay the photographer $10,000 if he keeps his mouth shut. When not only words but also images of the evening's misdeeds end up on the Internet, it's off to the races for McCabe, who hopes to hide out working on a film with a director friend in New York. After suffering hideous injuries in his presence, Chambers is not about to let that happen. The book is told in alternating chapters by McCabe, who waxes cynical about Hollywood and theoretical about photography and sex, and Chambers, who delights in describing his adversary's pants-soiling response to having a gun shoved in his face. Their differing accounts provide some neat narrative ripples.

Schow is an acquired taste, to be sure. But as splatterpunk goes, this book won't be outdone. It's got more attitude than you can shake an AK-47 at.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57137-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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