BILLY VERITê by Rick Harsch

BILLY VERITê

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The sequel to last year’s The Driftless Zone carries on in the same neo-noir vein, as Harsch mixes old villains and flawed heroes with new in a tale of a city so corrupt that the only homes for the good guys are places most people would think of as uninhabitable. Take Gerard, for example: He lives quietly in the maintenance closet of a La Crosse, Wisconsin, office building, where he practices his viola after hours—until a foray into a nearby bar exposes him to the crooked cop whose wife he’s known too well. He flees with his barmate, Lola, who—d been giving the cop special oral treats after he framed her in a coke deal, to the surveillance van of Billy VeritÇ, feckless private eye and the ugliest man around—who’s also not one of the cops— favorite people. Billy stows Lola away while Gerard makes plans, but the plot thickens when an evil genius, Skunk, with an infallible eye for diagnosing the medical conditions of others, arrives to take over a motorcycle gang running the city’s drugs. Discovering that his office has been bugged by Billy, and that Gerard saw him abducting an FBI agent who then vanished, Skunk wants them both. But Gerard has taken his friends to an uninhabited island in the Mississippi for safety, leaving them with supplies and a promise to return weekly. Gerard’s good deeds, which include kidnaping the cop’s crooked partner, prove no match for Skunk’s powers, and when he fails to make the rendezvous with Billy and Lola, Billy knows they must prepare for the worst. The showdown comes as a tribute to Billy’s ingenuity and as a revelation to all. But Skunk is still the man in charge. Thanks to Harsch’s sophisticated style, the smoky flavor of noir and its parodic doppelgÑnger strike an apt balance here: the result is impressive, as complex and redolent as fine old wine.

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 1998
ISBN: 1-883642-92-2
Page count: 263pp
Publisher: Steerforth
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1998




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