Thursday, May 1, 2008

Book Review: Kiss Her Goodbye by Allan Guthrie

Let’s get this out of the way first: if Hard Case Crime publishes it, I’ll read it. Period. In fact, I have used it to learn about new authors and get reacquainted with older writers long out of print or lacking the respect of modern critics. Ken Bruen is a name I first learned because of HCC. Richard Aleas is another. Add to that list Allan Guthrie.

As I mentioned in my post about crime novels, I’m a late comer to the crime genre in fiction. I’m ever expanding my list of Must-Read authors. Allan Guthrie just landed himself on that list. And it was because of Kiss Her Goodbye.

Kiss Her Goodbye is Guthrie’s second novel after Two-Way Split. One of the best things about HCC is the cover blurbs. I’m not talking about “From the author of Touch of Evil;” I’m talking about those one-liners that grab you by the shirt collar and scream for you to read it. For KHG, it’s this: “For what she went through, somebody had to pay…” On the cover is a typical HCC girl—pretty, daring, wearing an expression to make a priest blush—with a baseball bat. I’m there, brother. Bring it on. Granted, as the story goes on, I did begin to wonder who the ‘she’ actually was because there are multiple candidates. And that's part of the beauty of the story.

The main focus of the story is about Joe Hope, the muscle for a loan shark in Scotland. His daughter committed suicide and the cops think he killed his wife. His love for his daughter is palpable and struck me, a parent, right in the gut. It brought me along on a story of a guy who’d I’d cross the street to avoid.

The writing is tight but dense. Guthrie gives Joe good chunks of internal struggle. It is this internal struggle that carries us through half the book, as Joe spends most of the first half wandering in a daze or inside a police station. I’ll admit that there are times, when reading a book, where I skim over the longer paragraphs to get to the next bit of dialogue. No so KHG. I dug deep and felt Joe’s pain.

In one of the blurbs on the KHG page at HCC, a reviewer mentions Guthrie’s ‘mastery of casual violence’ and I didn’t know what that meant. KHG is a modern noir book. I expected violence and I got it. But I now know what ‘casual violence’ is. Almost like reading a grocery list, violence just happens. There’s no big lead-up, there’s little warning, it just is. I guess that’s what it’s like in real life. I like it. I’ll try to incorporate it into my fiction.

One last thing: it’s a rare book whose last sentence delivers a punch. Branded Woman is one. The Day After Tomorrow is a fantastic example. Kiss Her Goodbye delivers one, too, but it’s a more nuanced punch. Don’t get me wrong: it still smacks you but in a good way. Try it. You’ll like the feeling.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me. I have to go to the library and find me some more Allan Guthrie books


eejut said...

Good review there. From the links on the blog, it seems we have a lot of tastes in common, heres another for my RSS!

Keith Rawson said...

If you like AG you Should try out Ray Banks. Brilliant stuff. Banks reminds me a lot of Bruen's earlier stuff like Rlike on Black and Hackman Blues. Also Stuart Macbride's stuff is as wicked

Scott said...


Thanks for the tips. I'll add Banks and MacBride to my list.

A follow-up: both sets of public libraries here in Houston do not have any Guthrie books. I have been to about 5 bookstores (used and new) near my house and office. Verdict: no Guthrie. Looks like I'll have to order online.

Found only Saturday's Child by Banks. Found three Stuart Macbride books. I'm requesting them now.

Lunette said...

Well written article.

kamagra said...

It is a great book, I read it last year, it is a fantastic story worthy of reading.

Chandraptnb said...

It is a great book, I read it last year, it is a fantastic story worthy of reading.