This fast-moving, wiseass, noir tale of murder and Hollywood features the return of bodyguard and bouncer Caleb Rush (Crush, 2015).
Crush (Caleb’s street name) has a simple task: his old friend Rachel Fury is paying him $500 to deliver an envelope and pick up a suitcase. The envelope is supposed to contain letters of transit from the movie Casablanca, for a collector of movie memorabilia. The suitcase is supposed to be full of cash, but both parties cheat each other. For her part, Rachel is “a part-time artist, part-time actress, and full-time grifter.” “It’s all a movie, Crush. And I’m the lead…conning rich bad guys and winning the heart of the Hunky Good-hearted Bodyguard Action Hero,” a perfect description of Crush. Like many of the characters, she’s manic and funny. Several years later, Crush happens upon an Oscar-nominated actress named Rachel Strayhorn passed out in a Porsche in the parking lot of a nightclub, dress hiked up and panty-free, being photographed by a bunch of guys with cellphones. Crush recognizes his friend Fury: “It’s a long con,” she tells him when he pulls her out of the car. “A very long con.” She even has her “very own stalker.” Crush, on the other hand, is a quiet tough guy who doesn’t use guns. “Your guns are you,” Rachel says. Her father, Lloyd, calls Crush “half Cossack and half Roman centurion.” Still, she says Crush will never make it as a grifter, because he’s too soft. Indeed, he hasn’t pulled a con in 10 years. They meet up with “film director and professional bad boy” Adam Udell, who makes action movies and has built a gleaming white pyramid in a cemetery as his “tomb-in-waiting.” People die, and Crush jumps bail after a bogus murder charge, but those are details in a tight plot that culminates in Oscar Night, where Rachel and Adam are both up for awards.
Fast, light, and witty, Sutton’s second novel is a pleasure.