Neo-noir spoken here, even more fluently than in Wiley’s striking debut (Wiley’s Lament, 2003).
When a friend calls and says she’s in trouble, it’s meat and drink for Wiley, the quintessential noir anti-hero (dark demeanor, heart of gold). He drops everything to go to her aid—not that there’s much to drop, since he’s mostly been losing big at Texas Hold-em sessions at his friend Leon’s casino. Wiley’s mission is to pry Miriam loose from Dookie, her malevolent pimp. Dookie is a true monster, maybe the most unregenerate, over-the-top baddie in recent crime fiction. Dookie hurts people for the pleasure of it, and lately he’s been getting his kicks from hurting Miriam. Now he’s on a hot streak, the kind that creates the illusion of invulnerability. Nothing, Dookie’s convinced, can come down on him. He can’t possibly crap out at the gaming tables or in life; there’s nothing he can’t handle or kill. Not even the combination of Wiley and Leon—the meanest guys on the mean streets of Portland, Oregon—can diminish Dookie’s iron belief in his own demigod status. But hot streaks are by definition finite, and Dookie and Wiley will soon discover that where one ends another often begins.
Wiley does it all: He shuffles, deals, and scores impressively. We may be watching the emergence of a major talent.