Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Working for the mob

Blood Standard

Laird Barron

G.P. Putnam's Sons 

May 29, 2018

4 stars


 Isaiah Coleridge is muscle for the mob. He is half Maori, very big, and amazingly intelligent for a man whose job it is to hurt people. He lived most of his life in Alaska working for the Anchorage branch of the Mafia but has recently barely escaped execution after foiling a made man's scheme to slaughter walruses and profit from the black market in ivory. He is given a reprieve though and is sent to a farm in the East Coast near New York which can best be described a retirement home / rehab for forcibly retired gangsters temporarily resting before they are hit again. While there, he meets a young girl who also had her share of trouble. After Coleridge saves her from an abduction she ends up missing. Not the kind of man to stay out of trouble, he begins to search for her and gets into another spider web of black ops mercenaries, crooked cops, viscous gangs, and spoiled rich brats.

Blood Standard is a rough edged story of the crime underground but is particularly one about a man who precariously leans between feeling at home with the violence and wondering if he has his own moral code that is more important than that of the mobs. Coleridge is a fascinating protagonist and there is lots of background that rounds him into a person you can admire in a way. Mystery literature is full of anti-heroes but here is a particular good one whose darkness and violent ways struggles to be in balance with his own personal code. Coleridge is talented in the witty comeback manner shared by many of the best hardcore stalwarts of the mystery genre and he has his share of sidekicks of the dubious variety. He is a bit like a Jack Reacher on the wrong end of the law. But what really sets this crime noir thriller apart is Laird Barron's very literary style that comes out like a cross between Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet with a rural twist. The author is mostly known for his horror novels and this is his first mystery. That probably explains his darker than usual turn on the genre that is only lightened up a little by a wise guy sense of humor.

The main joy here is watching Coleridge battle against the odds and the guns. While he has the crime solving smarts, in most cases he just barges in like a organized crime Conan the Barbarian. Unlike Conan though, he has his tender side and can count without using his fingers. He even has some literary creds in his choice of reads. This appears to be the first of the series but stands alone with no real "cliff hanger". My guess is you will heartily welcome the second Isaiah Coleridge novel when it comes along.



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