RARA-AVIS: Beat the Reaper

From: Jeff Vorzimmer (jvorzimmer@austin.rr.com)
Date: 25 May 2010

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    f you think over-the-top, in-your-face, 30s-style pulp fiction is dead and buried, you only need read Josh Bazell's Beat the Reaper to prove yourself wrong. It's got it all--mysteriously-murdered holocaust survivors, war criminals at-large, mobsters throwing victims into the shark tank at the Coney Island aquarium, white slave traders with torture chambers, cars disintegrating from a barrage of automatic weapon fire.

    The novel grabs you by the throat from the first page and doesn't let up. It's opening scene is like something out of a Parker novel and in fact the main character Pietro Brwna is a lot like Westlake's Parker. Imagine Parker as freelance hitman for the mob who goes into the witness protection program and becomes a doctor.

    It opens: "So I'm on my way to work and I stop to watch a pigeon fight a rat in the snow, and some fuckhead tries to mug me! Naturally there's a gun. He comes up behind me and sticks it into the base of my skull and it actually feels sort of good in an acupressure kind of way. 'Take it easy, Doc,' he says."

    Four pages later, after dispatching the mugger, he's having sex on a hospital elevator with a cute blonde drug rep.

    I can understand why the publishers pushed this one--point of sale displays, alternately-colored covers (for the paperback), a 30 second video and so on. They think they have the new Westlake. Although the humor reminds me of Westlake at times, Bazell goes a little over the top, which is why this one gets four stars instead of five.

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