Monday, February 4, 2013

Review of Hard Bite by Anonymous-9 (Blasted Heath, 2012)

Three years after his daughter was killed in a hit-and-run accident in LA, Dean Drayhart has turned vigilante, hunting and entrapping rogue drivers using some creative internet scams, then killing his victims.  This is no mean feat, as in the same accident, Dean lost the use of his legs, most of his colon, one of his hands, and in time his wife.  He’s aided in his quest by his new girlfriend, Cinda, an escort, and Sid, his wayward helper Monkey who he’s trained to administer a hard bite to the jugular.  His latest victim is the son of a widow who has inherited her husband's 'godfather' status in the Mexican mafia.  Suddenly the tables are turned and Dean and Sid become the hunted.  The only thing that might save them is LA cop, Detective Doug Coltson, who knows he’s investigating a strange case, but has little idea how bizarre it’s going to get. 

I’m not quite sure how I ended up with Hard Bite on my kindle as I don’t remember reading any reviews.  Someone must have pointed me towards the book.  Whoever it was, I’d like to thank them.  Hard Bite was a joy to read.  Original, witty, smart, dark, and hard with a soft-centre.  Elaine Ash (Anonymous-9) writes in very assured and sparkling prose that is all show and no tell, and which swaps between the first person narrative of Dean and the third person of the other characters, including Sid.  I was hooked from the first sentence (see here).  The plot is very nicely put together, and whilst it could have twirled off into a screwball noir, it manages to be darkly comic without descending into farce, and wheels an interesting path through a morally fraught landscape.  Dean is a remarkable lead character, strong in vision and drive but weak in body, and Ash doesn’t fall into the trap of portraying him in an ableist light.  Sid is great fun as a helper monkey who was dropped from his training programme for attitude problems, and the other characters are all nicely realised.  Along with good contextualisation, there is also a decent sense of place in both LA and Mexico.  One of the most original crime and enjoyable novels I’ve read in a good while and thoroughly recommended. 

No comments: