Saturday, March 5, 2016

Hap and Leonard returns

Honky Tonk Samurai

By Joe R. Lansdale


Publisher:  Mulholland Books 

Pub Date: February 2, 2016

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is the kind of mystery series that I hope never stops. Joe R. Lansdale's Hap and Leonard series is about two loyal if unlikely friends. Hap is a somewhat liberal straight white guy who did some time in prison for fighting the draft during the Vietnam War. Leonard is a conservative gay black man. Leonard is the cynical type that would rather pound you down to the ground than reason with you while Hap tries to remain optimistic while reluctantly agreeing that a good kick and punch might be necessary more often than not. It is one of those unlikely relationships that quickly become deeper than the bond in most families. Hap and Leonard have been through 9 full novels with at least two novellas and a few short stories on the side. Their relationship continues to be the strength of the series yet they have managed to latch on to a few friends along the way that help round them out, noticeably Hap's girl friend Rhett and private investigator, now police chief, Marvin Hansen.

When you have so many books in your series, sometimes the plot can get rather similar. Yet with Joe R. Lansdale manning the pen, it is the characters and the smart-ass dialog that shine through. The real delight in Honky Tonk Samurai is that the friendship between Hap and Leonard is taking on the nature of a family with Rhett being the common sense grounding for the reckless duo. There is also another surprise in the family motif but I won't give that away. Honky Tonk Samurai is typically clever and funny with wonderful examples of the author's folksy humor like "you could have pushed me down with a hummingbird fart." But I fully appreciate the deeper relational aspects that continue to evolve with this pair of East Texas anti-heroes.

The plot? While on a stakeout for their work for PI Marvin Hansen, Leonard sees a man kicking his dog. That is enough for Leonard to intervene in his unique style. A older woman records the beat-down and uses the video to "convince" Hap and Leonard to try and find her niece who has been missing for five years. This leads to an investigation involving high price prostitution, blackmail, a murderous motorcycle gang, and a particularly vicious hit-man who collects the ball sacs of his victims.

Like I said, fairly typical Hap and Leonard. We also get quite a few cameos from some other characters of the Hap and Leonard novels Yet Honky Tonk Samurai, if a little same in plot, is different in theme and emotional intensity. We get a deeper side of Hap and even maybe a little more sincerity from the unpredictable Leonard. That is not to say the plot is dull or predictable. It is a hoot all the way through. But this book will be most appreciated by the real fans of the series who have followed the duo through thick and thin. Overall, it is a solid endeavor in the series and worthwhile readingfor all mystery fans.

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