I'm super busy right now--I have three exams over the next ten days--and so my original posts will be limited. However, I hope to continue to update the blog about three times a week, and my way of doing this is to publish reviews, and other do-dads I have placed elsewhere. And today, for your reading enjoyment, is a review of Charlie Huston's Six Bad Things I wrote for SFReader. This review was originally published September 21, 2006.
Six Bad Things is not the usual fare here on SFReader. It is a crime thriller, and anything but speculative. You will, however, get hooked on the first page and won't willingly let go until the last. It will especially appeal to the horror reader: it is dark, suspenseful and packed with palm-sweating fear. This is Charlie Huston's second novel, and the second in a trilogy featuring Hank Thompson, but it stands alone admirably. You don't need to read the first title in the series--Caught Stealing--to enjoy it, but you will want to.
Hank Thompson is an American fugitive living on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. He swims in the morning, sits on his swing at the local beach diner and keeps to himself. He has a cat, a few local friends and not much else. Unless you count the box buried under his bungalow with more than four million dollars inside. Unfortunately he took the money from the Russian mafia and they want it back.
This is where Six Bad Things begins, and it never lets up. A young Russian named Mickey comes to town and puts Hank together with the stolen money. He has a proposition: Mickey won't tell the mafia where to find Hank for a measly one million dollars. Hank takes the deal, but everything falls apart. He quickly finds himself back in the States running from the mob, the police, two psychotic beach bums and a businessman, who is more than he seems. They all want the money, and murder is nothing more than a tool they will use to get it.
Six Bad Things is a muscled up noir thriller. It is harrowing, hardboiled and damn fun. The plot is frantic and well paced. The dialogue is red-hot, and has the feel of authenticity: "For now. I tried to get ahold of Terry, you know, see if anything had popped up, but he ain't around. I can try him in the morning, I mean after the sun comes up. But."
The characters are fleshed out and drawn to perfection. The good guys aren't always good, and the bad guys are pretty damn bad. The body count is high, but Huston is able to keep protagonist Thompson likable and even better, believable. Six Bad Things will leave you breathless and waiting--very impatiently--for the next Hank Thompson novel to arrive. If you can make this book last more than a few days, you should check your pulse. You might be dead.