Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ferris Bluff by Fred Limberg


First off, does it say something bad about me that I enjoy a first sentence that has both “goddam” and “hell” in it?  Ferris Bluff starts out that way, and it immediately sets the tone for the book, a gritty novel set in a completely non-gritty place, the titular location being a small, beautiful, Arkansas town that still uses mechanical gas pumps and seems like a throwback to a quieter, older time.

Limberg does an excellent job with his character, Ace.  A misunderstanding at the front of the book immediately lets the reader know Ace has a violent past, and the character’s development throughout the book is unrelenting and continuous.  The suspense doesn’t let up either.  Even when the action isn’t front and center, there’s an undercurrent to it that doesn’t give in. 

The best thing about this book, though, is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Limberg has no illusions here.  He’s written a thriller, and a damn fine one with plenty of action, plenty of violence, and plenty of chest-thumping excitement.   He’s not, though, trying to make some astounding and significant point.  It’s a great escape, not a “yeah, I know it’s just a thriller, but I swear it’s more than that so notice how smart I am” pretentious kind of book that so many bestsellers are these days, the books that seem to try to apologize for their genre.  He makes fun of conventions, and I like that.

Take this passage for example:

Mournful swamp-blues rolled out of the old jukebox teasing danger and mystery in the night. Ace leaned over and said, “This is the crossroads, kid. This is where you go to sell your soul for what you can get for it. This is danger and death, boy.” Nick looked out at the crowd on the porch and realized there wasn’t a white face in the bunch. It didn’t look sinister. It looked like they were having a party. Ace laughed out loud. “I’m just messin’ with you, Nick. This is just The Jook.”

We’re so used to being told how to react to a scene, that we get pulled in like Nick, ready to believe that we’re at a crossroads, and then Limberg chuckles at us with a great big “gotcha!”

No, the book’s not perfect, but it’s perfect for the genre.  Yes, the bad guys are a little one dimensional, but for Heaven’s sake, this is a thriller, not a deep psychological exploration of the nature of humanity.  Buy this book.  It’s worth the money and worth the time you spend reading it.  I don’t know why Limberg isn’t a bestselling author yet.  He should be.


  1. I'm reading this right now. Enjoying it very much.

  2. I enjoyed the read - and my thriller-loving husband loved it.