3 out of 5
Everyone is awful in the world of Ken Bruen’s and Jason Starr’s Max Fisher and Angela Petrakos. Some people are maybe more on the naive side of things, but they’re also crack dealers; some are making a name for themselves as honest, good working folk, but are subject to the spiraling-wrongness of living in Max and Angela’s wake; and some people are goddamned serial killers.
His nickname is Slide, he likes to stab people with nary a provocation, and he’s looking to move from Ireland to America to start chasing notoriety with a notable body count. Angela, post her Max fiasco in Bust, is also in Ireland, looking for a new beau, and of course she sidles up to Slide.
Max, meanwhile, is waking up from uncountable days worth of hangovers in a motel in Alabama, and discovers this wild drug the front desk clerk is slinging – crack – is a pretty fun time! And it inspires his business acumen! And lots of heavily racist slang!
Bruen and Starr take their time making this stuff come together – literally until the last twenty or thirty pages of the book – and instead take up the bulk of their novel with just having a good time at everyone’s expense. Interestingly, though, instead of directly taking the piss out of everyone, and perhaps to juxtapose the brutality of Slide, the character, the book almost verges on slapstick, albeit of a Porky’s mentality. Which is selling it short: this duo can write, and can string together the most outlandish of circumstances in a manner that’s suggestive of a creativity far beyond that of that film reference, but the characters might as well be in such a flick, chuckling at their own depraved behaviors while our authors figure out what else they can throw at them… only for Max and Angela to inevitably emerge from the smoking rubble, still looking for trouble.
It’s a weird combination this time around, diving in to a dark corner of dark comedy by finding humor in the character of Slide, and hanging around in the mire of Bruen’s and Starr’s world for too long can be tiresome – just ask Ken Bruen, who gets kidnapped by Slide in the book at one point – but thankfully, these guys are also keen enough to know when it’s time to drop THE END on things, about 200 pages in.