There is no publisher more hard-boiled than Hard Case Crime. And there is no author combination more hard-boiled than Ken Bruen and Jason Starr. These gentlemen, through the auspices of Hard Case, blessed the reading world in 2006 with BUST, a seamless collaboration that was as dark, outrageous and hilarious --- sometimes within the same sentence --- as anything within recent memory. They have seen fit to produce a repeat performance in 2007, which fulfills the anticipation created by its predecessor.
The erstwhile couple at the nexus of BUST makes a return visit in SLIDE, even though they embark on this wild night’s ride on separate continents. Max Fisher begins SLIDE at the end of a roaring drug- and alcohol-fueled ride that deposits him in… No, I’m not going to tell you, because half the fun is finding out along with Max. Let’s just say that Max is in the United States, about as down as he can get in the one place in the country he is least likely to be. Angela Petrakos, meanwhile, is in Dublin, Ireland --- by choice and with eyes wide open --- but she is gradually reaching the end of her tether.
Max digs himself out of his hole by returning to sales, his natural vocation. He was selling computers in BUST; in SLIDE, he…well, let’s just say he is not performing that function anymore but is fulfilling a need nonetheless. And before you know it, he is living high and behind the high cotton back in New York. Angela does what she does best, and naturally she hooks up with a really twisted, demented chap named Slide, who wants to become a serial killer on the order of Dahmer, Bundy and Gacy. Slide is up to 13 by the time they meet. When circumstances require that they flee the Emerald Isle, New York of course is where they want to be. Max is also in the Big Apple, and, well, it’s just a small town, isn’t it? By the time all is said and done, the crosses are doubled and tripled; one will walk away, one will be led away and one will be carried away. The other half of the fun I mentioned earlier is finding out who.
What makes SLIDE a great book, of course, is the frenetic combination of Bruen and Starr, who write as if conjoined at the brain. Starr is a master at digging and probing into the molecules of the mortar that cements relationships for bad or worse, while Bruen’s ability to bring a stygian humor to the worst of humanity’s most malevolent foibles is unsurpassed. Put them together in a room, and just like the back jacket says, SLIDE may be the most shocking book you’ll ever read. It may also be one of the best.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011