Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

A KILLER’S KISS by William Lashner

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William Lashner’s new book, A Killer’s Kiss, is a rollicking blend of old school noir and today’s lightning-fast pacing. The plot announces itself with the authority of an unexpected sucker punch in the gut then connects in the jarring manner of a well-placed hook to the jaw.

I was new to Lashner’s writing and didn’t know what to expect. I picked the book up to read just a few pages to get an idea of what he did. Instead, he hooked me with one of the most intriguing beginning chapters of read a long time. It wasn’t over the top, and it didn’t immediately get your attention. Rather, it quietly crept up on you and wove its magic. I defy you to read the first eight pages and simply put the book down. Unless someone else has a gun to your head. In that case, the challenge doesn’t count.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of Lashner’s series character, Victor Carl. He seems a little lightweight and not exactly morally-oriented. But that’s his first impressions. Then you find out that Victor one’s what’s best for Victor, and you can’t help liking him for that because you totally understand him. He’s an attorney, but he’s not Perry Mason. He’s not altruistic, either. Victor one’s good things for other people, even more so if he gets a share in the good things.

In this book, Victor hooks up with an old flame. Her name is Julia. At one time they were going to get married, then Julia left Victor for Wren Denniston, a doctor of urology who stole Julia away with a drink and the fact that he wore a Rolex watch. As it turns out, Julia is every bit as materialistic as Victor is.

And hardnosed homicide detectives Hanratty and Sims believe Victor or Julia – or both – shot Wren Denniston to death in his house. The swift, obnoxious, and cutting interview by the two detectives harkens back to the good old days of the 1940s films and the best smart-guy private eye fiction that’s been written.

The narrative flow in the novel feels very much like an old pulp tale that’s been updated for the current market. I loved the writing and found myself mesmerized by it. Before I knew it, I was a hundred pages into Victor’s search through maze of lies and twisted half-truths. And I was questioning the loyalty of everyone involved. Including Victor’s old flame. But that was okay, because by that time Victor was pretty much questioning it as well. I loved the fact that Victor wasn’t blinded by love and not much got past him. He’s an easy guy to root for, but also one you love to see take the occasional pratfall as the plot twists and turns.

In no time at all – because pulp novels and Lashner move almighty quickly – Victor’s in trouble up to his eyebrows not only with the old/new girlfriend and the police, but also with Eastern European gangsters that learned their trade from The Godfather and wouldn’t mind dropping Victor’s body in a convenient large body of water or freshly poured concrete.

As it turns out, Wren Denniston had been doing some lying too. He was hovering on the edge of being financially destitute. Julia says she didn’t know that, and Victor would like to trust her, but she sells him down the river to the two homicide detectives. Of course, that was after he sold her down the river to the same two cops. All in her best interests, of course.

Lashner is a prince of witty repartee. I loved his dialogue exchanges and how he was able to bring a character to life with just a few lines. When Victor gets joined by Derek Moats, a recent client he kept out of jail, the fun really blossoms as the two become – for a time – one of the most offbeat investigative teams ever.

In an afterward to the novel, Lashner announces that he’s going to be taking a break from Victor Carl for the next few novels. I was truly disappointed. However, I’ve got six other books to read that I hadn’t known about before this one. And, like the Harry Potter series, I can at least own all the Victor Carl books that have been written.

For a time.

Because I can’t believe that Lashner is going to let Victor lie fallow for long. The writing style is just so reader-friendly and must be a hoot to work on.

If you want something breezy and easy to read, that has some attentiveness and speaks of the human condition, A Killer’s Kiss is a great book. Fans of Robert B. Parker and Michael Connelly will eat this one up and want more.


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