Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review: Elmore Leonard's Raylan

Diehard Elmore Leonard fans won’t be disappointed with “Raylan” (William Morrow, $26.99), featuring U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens.

The quick thinking, fast-shooting Givens has appeared in earlier books, “Riding the Rap” and “Pronto,” as well as the short story “Fire in the Hold.”

Viewers who follow the hit FX TV show “Justified”, starring Timothy Olyphant as Givens, might be a bit puzzled, as a few of the characters and some of the scenes are notably different in this book.

The latest effort by the masterful crime writer isn’t really a novel, it’s an intertwined collection of short vignettes showcasing Givens.

Two local marijuana dealers are causing problems – they’ve gotten into the more lucrative business of selling human body parts, specifically kidneys.

Givens’ investigation gets unusual results leading to a memorable scene with a pretty transplant nurse. She’s about to make Givens her next victim.

Carol Conlan, a determined executive for a coal mining company that’s trying to buy more land, is the centerpiece of the next vignette. She has her own quirky ideas of how to accomplish her goals and isn’t about to let anyone get in her way.

There are also a few chapters involving a devious criminal and three strippers, high on drugs, who are holding up banks. Givens is soon tracking down Jackie Nevada, a smart young college student who’s a superb poker player.

Eventually, all the loose ends are tied up; Leonard’s prodigious talent really shines as he deftly handles expected and unexpected scenes of violence.

Leonard, who’s written over 40 books, is in fine form with his terse, dialogue driven plot. He doesn’t spend a whole lot of time describing the beauty or ugliness of Harlan County KY, where most of the action takes place, but gets right into the action.

The author, who lives in Bloomfield Village MI, is the recipient of the Grand Master Award of the Mystery Writers of America.

Many of his books have been made into movies, including “Get Shorty”, “Be Cool” and “Out of Sight.” Leonard has also written a number of excellent crime novels with Michigan settings, including “Split Images”, “Unknown Man No. 89” and “City Primeval.”

If you haven’t discovered Elmore Leonard, you’re in for a real treat!

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, 
has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.

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