Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review of Devil Red by Joe Lansdale (Knopf, 2011)

Marvin Hanson has started a private investigation company employing Hap and Leonard as operatives, with the hope that they might work their way up to detectives. Mostly he has them doing odd jobs, supplying muscle and heat where required. When an elderly lady commissions Hanson to investigate the cold case of her murdered son, Hap and Leonard are charged with sticking their noses where they’re not wanted, a task they are more than qualified to undertake. What they discover is a series of murders connected by a red devil motif and a whole lot of trouble.

Devil Red has all of Lansdale’s trademark writing – cracking dialogue, fast pacing, a motley crew of colourful characters, a dash of slapstick, and a hook and drag ‘em storyline. And it has, for my money at least, the most enjoyable double act in contemporary crime fiction, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. The start to Devil Red is excellent as usual, and the narrative rattles along from there. The end, however, comes too soon and too easily, and the book felt about 30-40 pages too short, missing a couple of twists and turns along the way. This was a shame as it really was a five star read up until the closing scenes, with the pages flying by. That said, Devil Red does little to alter my opinion that Lansdale is one of the best crime writers plying his trade at the minute and if he keeps writing them, I’ll keep reading them.

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