Thursday, December 07, 2006

Book Review: THE BLONDE

Last week, I piled high my praise for Duane Swierczynski’s heist novel The Wheelman [here]. But I was still wholly unprepared for his follow-up, The Blonde. Let me start with its opening lines:

“I poisoned your drink.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me.”

“Um, I don’t think I did.”

The blonde lifted her cosmopolitan. “Cheers.”

I haven’t been yanked into a story that fast since President Palmer took the big sleep in last season’s 24 opener. Now let me quote from The Blonde’s dust jacket:

It’s your typical love story. Boy meets girl. Girl kidnaps boy. Boy loses girl and is pursued by a professional killer carrying a decapitated head in a gym bag.

Well, yeah, kinda. But that description barely begins to touch what goes on in this novel. What The Wheelman did for heist stories, The Blonde does for noir tales of innocent men pulled into horrible, uncontrollable circumstances. It turns the genre on its head. No, it actually pulls the genre apart, mixes it with a punk sensibility, then reassembles it into something new and unexpected. Think D.O.A., the old movie with Edmond O’Brien, stirred vigorously with Michael Crichton. Think The Fugitive on crystal meth.

But none of those comparisons really work. The Blonde is something else entirely. It’s just hard to say what that something else is. A look at the book’s jacket would have you convinced that this is a typical hardboiled crime novel. But it crisscrosses genres faster than you can blink. And it literally ticks like a time bomb, its brief episodes clicking past with markers like “12:55 a.m.: Behind the Edison Avenue House” and “5:16 a.m.: Frankford El, Approaching Allegheny Station.”

The Blonde is terrific. Right now, I’m leafing back through it to see just how Swierczynski did what he did. There’s a lesson in these pages for aspiring writers of noir fiction.

After only two novels, I’ve added Duane Swierczynski to my list of “must read” crime authors, alongside Andrew Vachss, Dennis Lehane, and Richard Stark. He can’t crank out another book fast enough for me.


At 10:41 AM, Blogger Happy Curmudgeon said...

Thanks for the review. This is now on my wish list.


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