Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Book Review Club: The Blonde by Duane Swierczynski

(This is the October edition of Barrie Summy's Book Review Club. For a complete list, head on over to her blog or click on the icon at the end of this review.)

The movie "Fatal Attraction" was visceral warning to any guy who merely entertained the notion of cheating on his wife. Duane Swierczynski's "The Blonde" chalks up another visceral: if you're thinking about hogging a stool in an airport bar on the night before you're to meet with your wife's divorce lawyer, just don't do it. Really. It's not safe. And it could get you in a world of trouble.

Jack Eisley clearly never read Swierczynski's book. Well, how could he? He's the main character. He goes to the bar and the cute blonde, the one that probably trolls around all the airport bars looking for lost travelers, lays a line on him he doesn't believe that starts this exchange:

"I poisoned your drink."
"Excuse me?"
"You heard me."
"Um, I don't think I did."
The blonde lifted her cosmopolitan. "Cheers."

In the annals of hooks that grab you by the lapels and dare you *not* to read anymore, this one is quite clever. Jack and "The Blonde" (who gets a name later on in the book but I'm not going to spoil it here) have some confused, yet witty repartee that actually had me chuckling all throughout the book. Jack uses logic, as would anyone, but the Blonde has all the comebacks. Aside from the blue ribbon pickup line, the Blonde has something else to lay on Jack: her little secret. If she doesn't keep someone within ten feet of her, she'll die. The Blonde is a modern day femme fatale, the way she cleverly runs circles around Jack's questions and disbelief. She's a winner. She leaves Jack in the bar with the best thing she could: doubt.

Mike Kowalski is the other main character in the story. A government agent, he's gone off the rez and made himself a one-man vengeance squad looking to take out the hoods that killed the lady he loved. He's got one of the goons in the sights of his sniper rifle, ready to pull the trigger and add a little brain matter to the goon's pizza, when his cell rings. It's his handler, former handler, thank you very much, and former something else. She's got a job for him, two actually. Fly to Houston (Yay! My town!) and retrieve a man's head. Yes, Mike, the whole thing. Sheesh, man, you got static on the other end of the line? Job #2: find a woman named Kelly White. She may have come in contact with the headless guy and we need her corralled.

With these two (three, now) strands started, Swierczynski slams the pedal to the metal and roars out the gate at breakneck speed. The bulk of the story takes place in a little less than twelve hours. Swierczynski shifts from Kowlaski's POV and storyline to Jack's (and the Blonde, who is Kelly White, natch). Thus, after awhile, you get what you'd expect: Kowalski the government agent hunting down Kelly White "and the new guy she met at an airport bar." (See, Jack, stay away from airport bars, man!).

Swierczynski's style is light, filled with fun pop references, and is pretty dang funny. I found myself laughing aloud more than once. Like his third book, Severance Package (my review) the pace is relentless, giving you (and Jack) few pauses to catch your breath. It makes for an exciting and thrilling read. And, with the trade paperback edition, you get the equivalent of a DVD extra: the short story, "Redhead," the sequel. I'm not saying anything about that story. You'll have to read "The Blonde" first. Go ahead, read those first few lines, then the first few pages. You'll not want to have this book farther than ten feet away until you've plowed your way to the end. It's worth it.

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pattinase (abbott) said...

Sounds like a fun read.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've heard reallly good things about this book. I need to write it down to keep an eye open for it.

Buck said...

"Wheelman" is still his best, but "The Blonde" is plenty good. I only wish Swierczynski would write more novels.

Glad you reviewed this book, Scott.

Jenn Jilks said...

Fun review! I'll put it on my 'to read' list!

Barrie said...

Great review, Scott! I love that hook. So, you live in Houston. You should join us for a My Town Monday post about Houston. ;)

Barrie said...

Oh, I was going to add that after reading Buck's comment, I'd like to read both books and see which one I like best.

Anonymous said...

I love the cover! :)

Scott Parker said...

Patti - I had a lot of fun reading the book. And, last year, when I met Swierczynski at Murder by the Book, even more fun was had.

Charles - I'm two books into Swierczynski 's career. I just have The Wheelman and his newest co-written work, the digi-novel Level 26.

Buck - Still need to get to Wheelman. I agree that Swierczynski needs to write more books (or I need a raise and start buying his comics).

Jenn - I try to bring some fun into my reviews. Glad it worked for you.

Barrie - I'm already filled up with posts early in the week. I might throw in the occasional one. And be sure to include Severance Package.

Kathy - That's the trade paperback. And, yeah, much nicer than the hard cover, um, cover.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Great review! I don't typically read this genre, but this one sounds good--I love it when a book has me laughing out loud.