Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review of Rusty Puppy by Joe R. Lansdale (Mulholland, 2017)

With his partner, Brett, and his newly discovered daughter, Chance, bed-bound with flu, Hap is hoping to continue recovering from a near fatal stab wound in peace. However, that proves a short-lived hope after Louise Elton visits the private investigation firm owned by Brett. Louise wants the firm to investigate the death of her son, Jamar, who she believes was beaten to death by rogue cops who also abused her daughter. Hap heads to the local projects to investigate, joined by his old-time partner, Leonard Pine. While Hap likes to try and be diplomatic when poking around, Leonard has a short fuse that tends to quickly escalate to violence. The locals are not happy with their presence, but the cops are even more hostile. It appears that Louise’s fears are well-founded, with the local police chief not only administering the law but also running organized crime. Which means seeking justice is going to be far from straightforward.
Rusty Puppy is the twelfth instalment of the Hap and Leonard series set in East Texas. In this outing they investigate the death of a young black man and tussle with a set of rogue cops who like to run both the law and crime. As usual, the pleasure of the read is the camaraderie and banter between two tough guys - Hap, a poor white man and his best friend, Leonard, a black, gay man with a trigger temper - who fight the battles of people who’ve been wronged; the larger-than-life characterisation in general (in this case, Reba – the four hundred year old vampire midget locked in the body of a child is a wonderful creation); and Lansdale’s voice and sparkling dialogue. As with each tale, Hap and Leonard trade insults and blows with their adversaries, as well as anyone else who finds themselves in the way, eventually reaching a bloody and hard-won, though rarely neat, resolution. In this sense, Rusty Puppy has all the usual Lansdale ingredients. However, the mystery in this outing is very straightforward and the conspiracy at the heart of the tale is so wide-open, involving dozens of people, one wonders why it wasn’t common knowledge beyond the local community and already being tackled by the media and wider law-enforcement. And there’s an inevitability about the denouement. Nonetheless, it’s still a fun read that rattles along to entertaining effect with all the usual Hap and Leonard wit and scraps.

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