THE ELEPHANT OF SURPRISE  by Joe R. Lansdale

THE ELEPHANT OF SURPRISE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Private investigators Hap and Leonard stumble across a young woman fleeing from her torturers and wind up having to keep on saving her life in this latest entry in the amiable series.

A wild storm is wreaking havoc in East Texas, a (rather obvious) metaphor for the hell being unleashed by the pursuers going after Hap and Leonard's charge, a young woman they find with her tongue half cut out and the men who aim to finish the job at her heels. The story follows the pair as they attempt to find one safe haven after another for this young woman, named Nikki, and then scamper to save their collective butts when each place proves inadequate. The book is more relentless than previous outings in the series, with the action moving at a near-constant clip, which has both advantages and drawbacks. Among the former, the headlong pace makes for one vivid set piece after another. Among the latter, a sense of inertia when, inevitably, things have to slow down to provide background for the narrative. Nikki tells Hap and Leonard her story across pages and pages, including more information than we need; it seems like one hell of a marathon gab for someone recovering from having her tongue almost snipped out. Worse is the confrontation with the head bad guy, as verbose and pleased with himself as evil hot shots usually are. There are also the series' periodic lapses into sentimentality and, much more annoying, Hap's twinges of conscience, which will lead him, in the name of avoiding unnecessary violence, to allow some particularly vile species of thug to keep breathing when every shred of common sense should tell him this baddie is going to be trouble very soon down the road. If the series insists on providing Hap with these moments, it should live up to its toughness by making him pay the price for them.

Hap and Leonard remain two of the most likable characters in crime fiction. The writing around them needs to get back to the lean hardness that made the series such a pleasure in the first place.

Pub Date: March 19th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-316-47987-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2019




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