|Steve Brewer: Bullets|
Press (Hardcover), ISBN 1-890768-50-2
Committing a brutal murder in a Las Vegas casino's hotel room really gets the casino owner riled, especially if the victim comes from one of the oldest families in town. In that event, the locals may find it necessary to handle the matter in their own very effective way.
Former Chicago police detective Joe Riley finds himself entangled in just such an incident as he pursues with single-minded determination the killer whom he believes responsible for a Chicago murder for which he erroneously took the blame. The fact that the hired assassin happens to be a beautiful and sexy young woman adds unexpected complications to the chase. What follows evolves into a series of incidents in which the hunter becomes the hunted.
Among the glitz and superficiality that defines Las Vegas, Brewer scatters a cadre of offbeat characters who prove to be the novel's greatest strength. Witness Delbert and Mookie, two small time gamblers and losers in every sense of the word. After they lose a bundle of cash in a poker game with Riley, they plot to recover their losses. Each scheme fails more miserably than the last, and the two collect only an ever-growing series of bumps, bruises and broken noses for their troubles.
Mel Loomis, Tropical Bay's chief of security, looks "exactly like Curley, that fat guy from The Three Stooges…" Loomis bristles at the comparison; nevertheless, he manages to outsmart himself at critical and deadly points in the drama.
Other quirky characters woven into the plot include the rich, reclusive and ruthless kinfolk of the victim, Hi and Norm Vernon, who plan to take care of things in the tried and true traditions of the Old West; and Sal Venturi, an overweight and sleazy lawyer, who makes most of his money in businesses outside the limits of the law.
Strangely enough, the two major players in the drama, killer for hire Lily Mardsen, and hero Joe Riley, seem a bit one dimensional. While readers learn about Mardsen's leisure time activities -- she likes to swim and to play the slot machines -- why such an attractive and intelligent woman would choose a killer's life remains unclear. We know she grew up in the South in a nomadic family. Perhaps Brewer believes those two facts provide sufficient motive. "It's a long story," she replies when asked by Riley.
Joe Riley seems a moody and driven man; however, details of the event that motivates his passionate pursuit of Mardsen become known only in the final stages of the hunt. Until that revelation, Riley's single mindedness of purpose seemed difficult to appreciate.
In the final analysis, however, I liked the book. Brewer interweaves a rather linear story line with occasional tufts of unexpected slapstick humor and fashions a quick reading and enjoyable novel.
here to share your