Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Review of Pseudonym by Neal Penn


More accurately, my evil twin Jerry Wright helped Neal with some editorial advice with Pseudonym, the new suspense/thriller/detective book.  He tells me it was easy as pie because the book was well crafted and plotted from the outset.  (Well, Jerry said "easy as vodka", but that's pretty much the same for him.)

I like when main characters are broken.  You know, when their lives are so screwed up that anything that happens to them in the book isn't possibly going to do them more harm than the harm they've already done to themselves.  Rodney Crane, the alcoholic disbarred ex-lawyer detective protagonist in Pseudonym is as broken as characters come.  Three small chapters in (the chapters are very short and action driven) he's faced bullets, glass, old ladies, and a scary as hell assassin, and his big regret is that his vodka and his scotch are still away at his house.

The mystery is unique, and that says a lot for it.  A rich man disappears at age 18 and apparently shows up again forty years later as the author of a series of Nick Carter/Executioner type ebooks.  Crane is hired by his spinster sisters to find him.  Along the way, he uncovers a conspiracy, faces a bunch of killers, and--just to make it interesting--has his sweet and HURT BY HIS BEHAVIOR IN THE PAST girlfriend along for the ride.

I enjoyed this book.  It has a ton of over-the-top action, a whole lot of fun dialogue, and just about everyone is on an alcoholic binge.  Who doesn't like bullets when they come along with vodka, bourbon, and scotch?  There are these two bozo hit men chasing Crane, and the interactions between them are just hilarious.  Read this part, but watch out, there's some profanity:

“How could you—hey, hand me my fries—could you miss when we were that close?”  The man behind the wheel merged the SUV onto the 50 and shook his head.  “The boss is gonna be pissed off at you.”
                “What do mean pissed off at me?  You were there.  Why didn’t you do something?”  The second man was dressed in black jeans, black shoes, a black turtleneck, and wore a black watch cap.  He reached into the paper Hardees bag and pulled out the fries.  He stole a few before he handed them to the driver.
                “Hey, eat your own g***m fries.”  The driver wore a charcoal suit with a muted grey tie.  He shook his head.  “First, you dress like some kind of idiot longshoreman with constipation, and then you—”
                “What does that even mean?  I’m dressed so nobody will recognize me if they see me.”
                “There’s not a person on earth who won’t recognize you in that get up.”  The driver shook his head.  “The boss is gonna be so pissed.  One squirrely-ass lawyer and you couldn’t hit him.”
                “My scope was out of alignment.  It wasn’t my—”
                “Who uses a scope from ten feet away?  Anyway, we’ll head back to the hotel and figure out what to do from there.”  The man looked at his partner for a moment.  “Hey, Susan still making those lemon bars?”
                “Yeah, every Saturday morning she makes a batch.  I have to take them out sometimes when she leaves for her shift.  You want me to have her make some for you?”  The passenger reached to the back and lifted the gun from the back seat, “Desert Eagle Mark IV, .357—you know I almost got the fifty.”
                “What do you mean?”
                “The .50 caliber.  They got a .44, the .357, and the .50.  I got the .357 because I figured there wouldn’t be as many looks when I bought the ammo.”  He reached down and unscrewed the scope from the gun’s barrel.  “Oh, Jesus.”
                “I had the scope on backwards.  That’s why I missed that guy.”  He reached in the back seat again and pulled out the combination lock carrying case in which he stored the gun, worked the numbers, and put the gun in the foam nook designed for it.  He put the scope in its nook as well and closed the case.  “You know that the chamber of the Desert Eagle stays open after you fire the last bullet?”
                “The slide.  It stays open.  That’s so you can throw a new magazine in and when you close the chamber it’s already good to go.”  He tossed the box in the back seat and reached back to the Hardees bag where he found a paper wrapped cheeseburger.  “It’s important in a battle to save every second you can.”
                “Hey, gimme one of those, too.”  His partner handed him the one in his hand and reached back into the bag.  “All automatics keep the slide open when they fire the last bullet.”
                “No they don’t.”
                “Yeah they do.  Who the hell ever gave you a gun in the first place?”
                “My dad gave me my first—”
                “Oh, f**k.  It was a categorical question?”
                “A what?”
                The driver shook his head.  “Categorical.  It means it was said for effect.  It wasn’t meant to be answered.”
                “I think that’s rhetorical.”  A neon sign caught his eye.  “Hey, let’s pick up some booze; make it easier to call the boss.”
                “Yeah alright,” he pulled the SUV toward the exit ramp.  “The Boss is gonna be so pissed.”

Almost every interaction between those two is like that, though it gets even funnier later.  The book is put together well with characters you care about, even the bad guys.  Do yourself a favor, the book is only $2.99, so pick up Pseudonym (Rodney Crane Thrillers) on Amazon

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