BUST is the result of an unholy alliance between Ken Bruen and Jason Starr, two modern masters of noir fiction. They bring together a fearsome and wondrous mix of vile characters on the streets of New York City to create a caper novel worthy of Westlake or Leonard, but with the dark edge of...well, Bruen and Starr.
Max Fisher is a software millionaire who's tired of Deirdre, his shrewish, ungrateful and unappreciative wife. The fact that Fisher is seeing Angela Petrakos, his Greek-Irish secretary, isn't helping matters. Angela is the perfect combination of angel and hooker, with a bit of gold digger thrown into the mix. When Fisher wonders out loud what life would be like without Deirdre, Angela wastes no time in setting up a meeting between Fisher and a very strange hitman known only to him as "Popeye." The shooter is Angela's paramour, Dillon, fresh off the boat from Dublin. Their plan is to acquire Fisher's fortune for themselves. The only problem is that Angela is no longer crazy about Dillon, and Dillon feels the same way about Angela.
Dillon is without question a bad guy, but there's no one here who is truly likable --- except perhaps for Bobby Rosa, a redoubtable paraplegic who spends his days brooding bitterly over his past career as a criminal and surreptitiously taking photographs of women. Rosa's likeability is only made possible by the revelation of a soft side one would not expect. When he has the chance to blackmail Fisher, however, he jumps at the opportunity. Everyone in BUST is caught in a dark, swirling whirlpool that takes everything and gives nothing.
This is a dark, gritty and inappropriately hilarious cautionary tale --- exquisitely conceived and flawlessly written --- about getting what you think you want and regretting it, and the endless consequences of evil deeds.
BUST may have spoiled me for reading anything else for a while. I haven't had a book make me feel this entertained in such a warped fashion since I read DIG THAT CRAZY GRAVE by Richard Prather at the tender age of 10. But that's another story. For now, don't let another sun set without reading BUST.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 26, 2010