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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