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Saturday, December 29, 2012
The Steel Deal by James Blakley
Published in 2010 by Inkwater Press
Sonny Busco is a down-on-his-luck 55 year old private detective who is broke. He is so broke that he works more for a security guard company than he does as a private detective. He is so broke that he owes money to loan sharks and he is behind on his payments. He is so broke that he's not sure if his car will start and if it does if it will even get him there. He is so broke that he pawned his gun!
But, Busco gets the offer of his life - just carry a briefcase to Santa Fe, New Mexico for enough cash to get him out of debt to the loan shark. When Busco borrows a car to meet his new client things fall apart very quickly. Soon he's racing across town in a borrowed car trying to figure out what is really going on and most importantly, keep himself alive in the process.
The Steel Deal starts out very strong. Blakley creates a very detailed world for Sonny Busco. Busco is a likable guy with a great set of friends and connections who support him, even if they are getting a little tired of Busco's hard luck ways. I was reminded of The Rockford Files and Magnum, P.I. and how those characters are always asking their friends for favors and that it was often a team effort, albeit a reluctant one. Busco is that sort of character.
But, to go back to the television detectives again, Busco leaves the more realistic world of Rockford and Magnum once his case starts and enters a surreal world much like that of the old Batman and Get Smart television shows. The characters have matching names like Pixy and Bambi, Sage and Savante, Hans and Franz and Bramble and Thorne, just like the Joker and Catwoman used to do with their henchmen. The story keeps getting odder and odder. Imagine Jim Rockford wandering around in a Batman episode and that's how lost I felt at times.
To me, this was like two different books - one is a gritty noir novel about a down-on-his-luck detective looking for a big score and the other is surrealistic and campy. Both kinds of books are fine and this book did them both well - I just did not enjoy the mixing of the two.
Would I come back for another read if Blakley writes another detective book? Yes, there's lots to like here. Blakley shows some skill, especially in character creation in the grittier parts of the book. I especially liked the character Zen, a middle-aged overweight woman in spandex from the gym who carts Busco around throughout the middle of the book in her SUV trying to figure out what's going on while he tries to lose her without hurting his feelings or getting her killed. She shows Busco's desperation but also his decency.
I rate this book 3 stars out of 5.
This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Steel Deal.
Reviewed on December 29, 2012.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. The author writes a very nice e-mail and has some of the neatest handwriting I have ever seen (really, it's like a font).