Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gutshot Straight and Troglodytes

4/4/10 Crime, mayhem and murder are the focal points of two recent crime novels that are mostly set in far-off countries. Each is full of intriguing characters and violent action, but differ greatly in their approach.

Gutshot Straight by Hollywood screenwriter Lou Berney (William Morrow, $24.99) is a good debut novel that opens with a prison scene. It introduces Charles "Shake" Bouchon, a professional wheelman who's about to get out of jail after serving three years.

Bouchon gets to Los Angeles where Alexandra Ilandryan, the head of the area's Armenian mob, meets him. His former boss and lover wants him to deliver a package to Las Vegas and pick up a briefcase.

While it sounds simple, there are serious complications, especially when Bouchon discovers a woman trussed up in the trunk.

The action doesn't stop the there - soon the pair is on the run with a Vegas thug hot on their trail. They're on their way to Panama, where they hope to sell the highly eclectic contents of the briefcase to a rich, big-time con-artist in hiding.

Highly entertaining, the serpentine novel has unexpected twists and turns. Many of the quirky characters could have just stepped out of an Elmore Leonard or Carl Hiaasen novel.

Berney, a talented and experienced author, has crafted one of the most unusual and enjoyable crime novels of the year. Hopefully a sequel is in the works, with film adaptation following shortly.

Troglodytes, by Ed Lynskey (Mundania Press, $13.95) is considerably darker, showcasing private investigator Frank Johnson, who's appeared in two earlier novels.

This classic hard-boiled tale in mostly set in Ankara, a bustling city in Turkey.

American diplomat Sylvester Mercedes has vanished from his hotel room. Lois, his prominent socialite wife, hires Johnson to find out what happened to him.

Johnson needs the money to pay the IRS, so he takes the case. He stays in a seedy hotel room and tries to follow minimal leads. As he investigates, possible suspects emerge, including a loudmouth beer salesman and a sleazy hotel manager.

The diligent private eye gets assistance and has unexpected results, leading to a realistic, satisfying conclusion.

Ray Walsh
This article also appeared in the
Lansing State Journal on April 4, 2010

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