What we've been reading lately

Welcome to the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association redesigned Killer Books page. Below, you will find selections from members' blogs and webpages that post mystery reviews. If you've read the book discussed, or would like to, we welcome your comments.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review: Hell and Gone

from Murder by the Book, Portland, Oregon, www.mbtb.com

HELL AND GONE, by Duane Swierczynski (Mullholland Books, $14.99),
recommended by Barbara Tom, Murder by the Book, Portland, Oregon:
This is the second in a projected three-book series about Charlie Hardie.
I'm hoping there will in fact be a third book (Point and Shoot, projected
release date 3/12), because there was a lot of hanging by the fingernails
from a cliff at the end of this one.
Fun and Games was the first book. To my loss I have not read this, but
Swierczynski encapsulates the first book's action very well, as in:
therewasashootoutoverthepeoplehewassupposedtoprotectandanactressgotkilledbut
Charliewasinnocent,gotshotandkidnappedoutofthehospital.
Charlie is a tough guy, apparently too tough to put under with an ordinary
amount of anesthesia. He unexpectedly wakes up to bizarre scenes: in an
ambulance after he's been shot or finding he's stuck on a life-support
system in the trunk of a car. The next thing he knows he has (mostly)
recovered somehow and is now handcuffed to a chair. His arch-nemesis, a
female assassin, is telling him he is the new "warden" of a facility where
they keep "monsters."
Stop.
You probably have the (correct) impression that this is not a normal book of
crime fiction. It's very visual in a ka-bam, pow-y sort of way, but there
are also a lot of nods to old-time pulp fiction. Swierczynski hits his
readers between their eyes with his fast movements. For example, the book
starts this way:
"During the past fifteen minutes Charlie Hardie had been nearly drowned,
shot in his left arm, shot in the side of his head, and almost shot in the
face at point-blank range.
Now he was sprawled out on a damp suburban lawn handcuffed to a crazy
secret-assassin lady who liked to sunbathe topless. He figured things could
only go up from here."
The quotes Swierczynski adds before each chapter warrant a book report all
by themselves. A lot of them are from incarceration fiction and movies:
from Papillon to Cool Hand Luke to the kitschy Shock Corridor. Toss in a
sprinkling from cult classics, books and movies also featuring man vs. The
Man.
Reference Kafka, Sarte (also quoted), or any other existential dude you
want, add kick-ass action, gnarly and grotesque dudes and dudettes who could
be good or bad or both or actors, and shake everything up thoroughly until
you are verging on a headache, and serve.
My best advice is to stop saying "What?" every few minutes as you read the
book. Go with the flow, enjoy the staccato ride, and wait in sweaty and
grimy anticipation for Point and Shoot.

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