RARA-AVIS: Recent reads: Starr, Child, Slaughter

From: Karin Montin ( kmontin@sympatico.ca)
Date: 18 Jul 2004

Unlike miker, I thought Jason Starr's Tough Luck was pretty good.

This was the first I'd read by Starr, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's about an ordinary young guy, Mickey Prada, working in a butcher shop and saving his money for college in the fall. He likes to make small bets on basketball games, and one time a customer asks him to place a bet for him, as well. The customer doesn't give him any money, then loses. Then asks him to place another, bigger bet, then loses, refuses to pay up, etc. Mickey now owes his bookie a lot of money. A friend persuades him to take part in a robbery so he can recoup his losses. Of course, everything goes wrong. It's fast-moving, it's funny, it's dark. Just to give you an idea, one of the high point's of Mickey's life is when his father dies. His father was a pain.

The story is apparently not typical of Starr, in that the central character is totally innocent to start with.

Nothing Personal, another one by Starr, also involves gambling on sports. (Do they all?) We follow two New York couples; the wives are best friends from childhood and the men don't like each other. Compulsive gambler (and need I add loser?) Joey decides that kidnapping his wife's best friend's daughter would be a great way to raise some cash. This book has the bleakest ending I've read in a long time. A very good read and unqualifiedly noir. It even says so on the back cover.

Running Blind, by Lee Child, is his third novel featuring Jack Reacher, but the only one I've read. Reacher is a former military MP roped into helping the FBI investigate a series of extremely bizarre killings of ex-army women. There are some tricky twists, but I saw a couple of them coming, and I'm usually easy to fool. Reacher is an interesting character, a footloose loner who feels tied down by possessions. For instance, he goes away for an indefinite length of time taking nothing but a toothbrush. Though why he bothered, I don't know. He didn't change his undies for about a week.

Karin Slaughter's first novel, Blindsighted, is a real page-turner. Small-town pediatrician/coroner Sara Linton helps her ex-husband, the sheriff, track an extremely sadistic rapist/murderer. There are a few illogical surprises late in the book, things Sara should have told the sheriff at the start of the case, if not when they were actually married. I expect Slaughter has improved with her later books.


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