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July 9, 2008 |

By Brian Prisco | Books | July 9, 2008 |

Jack Daniels is steadily blazing past all the other snubnosed, hard-edged detectives to quickly become the cop I’ll call if someone I love is horribly murdered, and the shock drives me catatonic to the point I’ll be cradling a “Sesame Street” phone in a padded room. She’s on speed dial between Grover and El Mariachi. The novels take place in Chicago, or as I prefer to think of it, “New York or Boston if constant tornadoes cleared the streets of garbage and thin folks.” They are a delicious black and tan on a seething hot day blend of side-splitting sarcasm and wit and stomach churning gore and violence. It’s everything a growing kid needs to fill the time between comic-book movies this summer.

For both literature and cinema, a series well past the range of trilogy can get stale and repetetive, like a piece of bubblegum or sex with me. (See: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter. Serious, Laurell, I love you, but what half-animal, half-soap opera character is your tough but fragile huntress going to fuck this novel. It’s like she’s got a giant Speak and Say, only it’s got wereporn. Anita fucks….a werepig. The Pig says, “I don’t want to be food. Protect me from the werecoyotes that will end up betraying you.”) And what’s particularly intriguing about this series is that Jack and her portly man-at-chubby-arms Herb Benedict, seem to be after bad apples from the same serial killer tree each time. Yet, it never feels gimmicky, and the crime portions are always juicy and disturbing.

The titles are always alcoholic beverages and plot related, though this one was a bit of a groaner. I won’t give it away, only to say I actually Ughhed out loud. I didn’t know how he would possibly top the topical and frightening homemade terrorist plot of Dirty Martini. Turns out all he had to do was take everything that makes his novels amazing and toss them into a pressure cooker. If you haven’t read the other novels, this might get a little spoiler-y, so I first suggest you get a hold of the books and read through them. (Then buy them as gifts for your friends. They’re tiny! They mail easily!)

All Jack wanted was a nice quiet dinner at home with her mother and her potential fiance, Lantham, at the Daniels family homestead. Instead, a crazy psychopath she thought dead forever returns to torture her and all the people she cares about. If this weren’t bad enough, the house is surrounded by three thrill-kill vigilantes who want to take out the cop who can stop them. And the events all pretty much take place in a single evening, bounding in perspective from character, to villain, to other villain, to heroine at lightning pace. There are so many fucking twists and turns and alliances, it’s like watching an episode of “Survivor” if the goal was actually to murder the other players. Which, come to think of it, would spice up any reality show. “American Gladiators” for real, bitches.

In the hands of any other author, this easily could have deteriorated into some sort of cheesy-ass Movies for Guys Who Like Movies type horseshit. But because we’ve learned to love all these characters, to see any of them hurt, or murdered, or killed is heartwrenching. Even Harry, the best flat-out perverted prick son-of-a-bitch character in literary history. Konrath ratchets up the tension, playing his typical shell game with lives and deaths. You never know who’s going to die, or why, or from what. And it still manages to be chuckleworthy. You’ll be holding your breath between giggles. It’s like watching kids play with hot potato with a real potato. Someone’s taking a tater to the dome.

The novel comes boiling to a dynamite in a gopherhole finish, making me literally scream with unabated rage. I swore like a sailor falling on a pack of Girl Scouts at the finale, because Konrath committed the unforgivable cliffhanger ending. It’s worse than Who Shot Mr. Burns? Imagine instead, if Mr. Burns coldly walked into the Simpson homestead and we saw a gunshot go off in a window. Isn’t that Bart’s room? What if Lisa were in there? Someone doesn’t survive this novel. And we won’t find out who until Cherry Bomb hits shelves in the summer of 2009. And it wouldn’t burn so bad if the writing wasn’t so sharp.

If you’re looking for a badass breakroom book or a killer beach read, accept no substitutes. Konrath will whet your jones in a hurry, in books that you can breeze through. The dialogue is sharp, the characters are hilarious, and the murders are sticky-sweet. In fact, you can download the first novel, Whiskey Sour, for free from his website!

Stuck In The Middle With You

Fuzzy Navel: Book 5 of the Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels Series by JA Konrath / Brian Prisco

Books | July 9, 2008 |

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