Saturday, June 21, 2008

Review of The Max

By now you probably already know how you feel about Ken Bruen and Jason Starr’s ongoing collaboration for Hard Case Crime. Bust and Slide are novels that inspire strong feelings. Readers either love the ongoing black comedic adventures of Max Fisher and Angela Petrakos, or they’re repulsed by the glib violence and the irredeemable nature of the main characters. There are probably a lot more of the latter than the former, and the authors know they’re not going to be making the New York Times bestseller list with this particular series, so they have fun, making their characters over the top and poking fun at some real NYT bestselling authors as well as the publishing industry itself, which is scared to touch the sort of book the authors have written.

The Max (Hard Case Crime, 2008) picks up right where Slide left off. Max has been sent to Attica after being convicted of drug dealing, and Angela has made it to Greece, where she is hanging out and spreading herpes. After a rough start, Max adjusts to prison life and hangs onto all his trademark delusions, and Angela hooks up with an English con-man with an uncanny resemblance to author Lee Child. Throw in a failing crime writer with an unhealthy obsession with Laura Lippman and a vengeance obsessed Greek, and it makes for a volatile cocktail. No prizes for guessing who the only person left standing at the end is.

The Max is funny and anarchic, but it is not quite as good as Slide, which was a wonderful satire. There are still laugh out loud moments, but not as many. The Max is also not that entertaining as a stand-alone. Readers should read the first two books before approaching this one. The authors drop in just enough explanation to prevent readers who are not familiar with the series from getting lost, but not enough for them to fully appreciate the humor in the characters’ situations. Of course, even if you’ve read one of the previous books and hate Starr and Bruen’s series, or you aren’t inclined to start at the beginning, you could always just buy The Max for its cover, which is wonderful and stands out even among Hard Case’s consistently great artwork.

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