Saturday, January 5, 2008

BIg City, Bad Blood (Ray Dudgeon) by Sean Chercover

This is one that really got the seal of approval from the critics. We also named it the best Debut Novel of 2007.
The main plot isn't that original: PI Ray Dudgeon is hired to protect a locations scout who witnessed some mobsters doing things he shouldn't have witnessed. Protecting him Ray discovers the blackmail schemes of a mobster and spends some time in Hollywood where he shares the sheets and a pool with a middle-aged Hollywood actress.
So, what makes this book a winner? Well, first of all the writing reads well. Simple as that. It's hard for me to describe the style, but it works. It's not the clipped style of Robert B. Parker of the lyrical style of James Lee Burke or the witty style of Mark Coggins for instance. It's just a blend of all styles that make this genre so enjoyable. Also, you really get the feeling you're "there" with Ray as he personally tells you what happened. It doesn't hurt that Sean used to be PI in real life, so he knows what he's talking about when it comes to security details. There's a layer of realism and emotion beneath the words that made it impossible for me to put down the book.
The other thing I really liked is that Ray is a flawed character without being addicted to booze or drugs. His flaws mainly come from his anger, caused mostly by a rough childhood that is revealed very slowly throughout the novel, which is logical because Ray doesn't like talking about it to his girlfriend, so why would he like talking about it to us. That adds to the feeling described before.
Heroic, yet dark, relying mostly on his own violent streak to get tough with the bad guys instead of his 'psycho sidekick' Gravedigger Peace Ray Dudgeon is one hardboiled SOB and still he manages to surprise you when he strikes out.
Mobsters, cool cars, guns, psycho sidekicks, a cynic worldview and some wisecracks... This one offers everything you like about the genre and does it really well.

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