Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

DEVIL RED by Joe Lansdale

Hap Collins and Leonard Pine are back in action twice this year. First up is Devil Red, the latest novel in the series. Joe Lansdale also penned a straight to Subterranean Press hardcover novella called Hyenas as well, but I’m saving that for a rainy day.

Devil Red is one of the slimmest novels I’ve read in a long time. It clocks in at just two hundred pages, but it’s a blistering read chockfull of Lansdale’s trademark wit and crudeness. The bit about Leonard, black and gay and violent, wearing a Sherlock Holmes deerstalker was just too humorous to be believed, yet I did. The author gets a lot of mileage out of the hat and I was smiling at every turn.

The way the two get involved is different. Seems that Marvin Hanson, retired homicide detective turned private eye, needs a couple of legbreakers to investigate a double murder that involves a vampire cult and other weirdness, including a devil’s head carved into a tree near the murder scene.

Lansdale pushes then one straight into the crime arena and shows his series chops by getting the investigation rolling right along. Of course, things don’t turn out the way readers will expect it to because this is Lansdale, and Lansdale and ordinary don’t ever really show up in the same sentence.

Hap and Leonard both deal with issues of mortality in this novel, though Hap’s come from an internal lockup and Leonard definitely receives an external wake-up call from the big man with the scythe. I enjoyed reading about their reaction. Lansdale’s portrayal of his characters is something less than superhuman, but not much, but their hearts and minds are vulnerable, and that’s why I like our dynamic duo so much.

In the previous book, Lansdale introduced a hitwoman character he called Vanilla Ride, definitely one of the more exotic names I’ve seen even after long years of reading. She was barely touched on in the previous book, but she gets more face time in this one. We even get her origin story, which is interesting.

People not used to Lansdale are going to be offended on nearly every page, and shocked at least every other page. Lansdale’s violent world seems like ours, only knocked seriously askew, and even the familiar things are dangerous. However, there is no one more deadly with a one-liner or a thoroughly sarcastic comment, and Lansdale shines here.

I don’t know when Hap and Leonard will return, but I’m looking forward to the next few books Lansdale is working on. He’s got a period piece up next, and a YA book set during the Great Depression, and I’m intrigued by both.


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