Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A tight and effective P.I. novella

A Bone Dead Sadness

By Joe R. Lansdale

Publisher: Gere Donovan Press

Pub. Dale: August 10, 2014

Rating: 3 & 1/2/ out of 5 stars

Marvin Hansen is slightly different than Joe R. Lansdale's usual East Texas misfits, even if he hangs around Hap and Leonard and gives them jobs once in a while. Marvin is an ex-detective, now private investigator. His messed up leg doesn't keep him from doing his job or delivering a little physical payback from time to time. He is married but not necessarily happily since he was caught in an affair and the marriage is still healing. Marvin is offered a job by an elderly well-to-do woman to find her missing son. The problem is that he has been missing for 25 years.

A Bone Dead Sadness (great title!) also seems a little retro. While it is set in Lansdale's usual contemporary East Texas setting, it feels more like a traditional gumshoe story. Hansen is smart and tough and has more than a little Sam Spade in him. Hanson is surely not unknown to Lansdale aficionados, being a regular in the Hap and Leonard series and a primary character in Act of Love. Yet here he is front and center with a P.I.'s keen observational skills and raw nerve. A Bone Dead Sadness may feel like a typical gumshoe novella but it is a very fine one. "Too short" is a legitimate complaint for the Lansdale fan but not necessarily fair since the author sets out to write a certain story and does it well. No frills, no fat, all lean. If my rating seems a little low, it is based on a thorough knowledge of the heights Lansdale can take a reader. For the reader new to the writer's world of suspense, this would be a fine starting point.

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