I’m copyediting a couple of manuscripts right now (Brett Battles’s Becoming Quinn is in da house!) and
sleeping showering blogging time is a little scarce. So, I’m posting a link to a piece I did at Criminal Elements about how casting can ruin police procedurals, and, with Shelf Awareness’s permission, my review of Duane Swierczynski’s Fun & Games that ran in its newsletter recently.
Enjoy! It’s almost Friday!
Duane Swierczynski’s Fun & Games, the first in a trilogy, is aptly titled because it blows your hair back and leaves you gasping for more. What the title doesn’t tell you is that the games being played are stone-cold deadly.
Charlie Hardie is a professional house-sitter whose latest assignment is a film composer’s lair in the Hollywood Hills. All he wants to do is spend the week on the couch drinking and watching DVDs. Instead he finds drugged-up actress Lane Madden hiding in the house, yammering about how “they” are out to get her. Her claims soon prove to be true, and Charlie unwillingly gets caught up in her life-or-death struggle, trying to vanquish the ruthless people who are determined to trap and kill them inside the house using various methods from the murderers’ manual. Along the way, Charlie discovers why the killers are targeting Lane, a reason almost as terrible as his own secrets.
Charlie is the most entertaining protagonist I’ve met in a long time. He’s a reluctant hero who fights back only because he’s angry, like a sleeping bear who’s been poked too many times with a stick. Once he’s on the warpath, though, there is no stopping him. And Lane is no stereotypical actress. She’s a resilient yet vulnerable character whose life hasn’t been made easier by her fame and beauty.
The pulp noirish story has more turns than the twisty L.A. canyon roads that provide its setting, and the pacing is as fast as a car careening down those same roads without brakes. Though Swierczynski lives in Philadelphia, he describes Los Angeles landmarks like a local. But his biggest gift to readers here is the creation of Charlie, a winning protagonist I’ll follow to Hell—Hell & Gone, that is, the next installment coming this October.
Nerd verdict: Explosively Fun & Deadly Games