04 March 2009

The Dead Man's Brother

Hard Case Crime isn't just about crime. Case in point: The Dead Man's Brother. Oh sure, there's crime--murder, embezzlement, kidnapping--but the novel is really an adventure story in the pulp tradition. Our hero is an art dealer, fer chrissakes, who is coerced into working for the CIA. He goes to Rome and thence to Brazil, where the climax takes place in the jungle amidst a tribe of indigenous people and their paramilitary oppressors. Roger Zelazny--yes, that Roger Zelazny--wrote the book some time ago, perhaps the 1970s, and it found its way into print only after his death. It's a good read. Zelazny was a pro, and the story is suspenseful and well-constructed. The hero is likeable enough without actually being likeable, but he's beset by so many villainous types that you are on his side the whole way. There's a dark and mysterious femme who softens his calloused heart, but only a bit, because we know our boy is the cynical, solitary sort, and long-term liasions just aren't in the cards. I can complain (a little) that the plot was a tad more convoluted than necessary, and the final chapter tied up so many loose ends by twisting them into new knots that I had to re-think the entire tale. The new March title is a reprint of Donald E. Westlake's first novel, The Mercenaries (1960), re-titled The Cutie. Mr. Westlake is, if not the best, one of the handful in the pantheon. Looking forward to that one. Stay tuned for a review.

No comments: