EDITOR’S NOTE: The Crime-On-Crime Review Series originated on Crime Syndicate founder Michael Pool’s personal blog. We’ve taken over the series here at our site, and have been re-releasing the reviews one per day leading up to a brand new review tomorrow, 11/10/15. This review was originally published on 10/12/15.
Oh dear. Oh good god. Oh my-my. That Mike Monson is one sick puppy, and I mean that in the best possible way. I’ve had the privilege to read several other of Mike Monson’s books, including his novella The Scent of New Death, his novel Tussinland, and his short fiction collection, Criminal Love and Other Stories. Though I really enjoyed the others, What Happens in Reno became my favorite of Monson’s books almost from the first page.
This book is pulp noir at its absolute darkest, lowest, and most hilarious point. One of the things Mike Monson does better than almost any other pulp noir author I’ve ever read is to write books that have absolutely no redeemable characters, yet compel you to keep reading anyway. In graduate school, they tell you that’s supposed to be impossible, but clearly they haven’t met Mike Monson, because with Monson manning the keyboard it works just fine.
In What Happens in Reno, Monson’s protagonist Matt Hodges is no exception. I mean, the book opens with him puking up his Grand Slam Breakfast all over the side of his car before sleeping it off in the Denny’s parking lot. Hodges is a man whose closest thing to an ally is a cheating wife that hates his guts, though perhaps not as bad as he hates himself. Those are his redeemable qualities, if you can believe that.
What follows Matt Hodges’ puke sesh is a dark tale of adultery, betrayal, gambling addiction, and murder that is as funny as it is disturbing. Seriously, there’s not a single character in this book with so much as an ounce of integrity, and yet I found myself rooting for Matt Hodges even as I suspected that things weren’t going to work out, could never work out. I damn near had tears of laughter streaming down my face at certain points in the story, and had to put it down to get the laughs out more than once before I could continue reading.
Throughout the narrative arc Monson doesn’t ever, even once, provide the reader with so much as an ounce of hope, and yet he arranges words in a way so as to put on a spectacle that is nearly impossible to look away from.
I’m not going to say anything else, lest I spoil some of the laughs and thrills for you. So if you want to find out what does, indeed, happen in Reno, you’ll either have to read the book, or head on out to “The Biggest Little City in the World” to flush yourself down the toilet first-hand. If I were you I’d select option one and pick up a copy of Monson’s book, particularly since it’s just been re-released by badass crime fiction indy-publisher All Due Respect Books, where Monson also works as Co-Publisher.
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