A vet recluse turns hit man in a smartish first thriller debut from Hoar (stories: Body Parts, 1992).
“There are costs to society when it bloods its young men . . . when it teaches them it’s all right to kill certain human beings.” Luke Carr had 19 confirmed kills in Vietnam, and by the third tour he was sick of it. But life back home in Mississippi doesn’t make much sense anymore, either, so when the events of the story begin to unfold he’s kind of a high-rent Rambo: he retreats and flashes back similarly, but he can appreciate sophisticated graffiti like “Nietzsche is dead—God.” Luke is literate: “Books turn bullets,” he tells us, “insulate walls, impress women, and protect against radiation. That’s in addition to providing company, solace, information, and entertainment.” Hoar is trying to bring noir to Mississippi: “When I opened the door there she was . . .. There’s always one woman in your life that’s wrong for you, who’s going to get you into trouble.” Just as Luke is planning to relieve the local hotshot of his art collection, said woman, Kinnerly, conveniently appears, conveniently married to the hotshot, who becomes the hit. The affair between Luke and Kinnerly is a lengthy explanation of why divorce is no good and the hit must occur: money, saved children, trophy wives, etc., spliced together with sex and semiliterary puns (“ ‘A good man? They’re hard to find,’ I said”). But Luke’s on to the pending double cross—the only question being how many murders he will have to commit in the wake of murdering his lover’s husband, and might the femme fatale give new meaning to the word “fatale”? Is this tragedy more akin to Chandler or Shakespeare? Hoar’s storytelling is crisp and sometimes inventive and cute (“Dogs that smile overdo it”), but place isn’t rendered as often as it might be, and this is a far more noirish effort than a southern one.
Lively, but Hoar is intentionally aiming low.