Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Thursday, October 2, 2014

S. Craig Zahler's MEAN BUSINESS ON NORTH GANSON STREET--a review

I really liked Zahler's debut wester, A CONGREGATION OF JACKALS, even though I don't read that many westerns. His new book, though, is right up my alley. In fact the action begins in a dark alley where a derelict named Doggie is about to get beat down. In S. Craig Zahler’s new book, a good detective’s bad judgment earns him exile to the heartland where his investigation into a murder opens up a very nasty can of worms. MEAN BUSINESS is a great example of "heartland noir" where we know something is rotten in Missouri even before disgraced detective Jules Bettinger arrives. Bettinger is a well-rounded character who comes across as a good man in a bad, bad job. He's cynical, but there's a reason for it, and what we see of his private life--his relationship with his family members--tells us he sees them as a refuge and a respite. The writer also does a good job of making stone sociopaths understandable. They're still chilling characters but we understand what motivates them. The plot is twisty and complicated but never quite gets … convoluted. It does get kind of random a bit, though. We know some of the pieces of the puzzle up front (and that means we know more than Bettinger does at first) and we may suspect we know what else is going on, but there are a number of surprises here. The resolution of the mystery is a bit ambiguous, though. We genuinely don't know how it's all going to end, and that's something that rarely happens in this kind of book.

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