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Hard Stop by Chris Knopf
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Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: In this, the fourth installment in the Sam Acquillo series, Sam's past reaches out to pull him back into the world of big money and even bigger egos, where the term "corporate intrigue" is redundant and ambition the only virtue. It seems a woman vital to the private life of a very important person has gone missing in the Hamptons. And it looks like the best way to get her back is to extort the cooperation of Sam Acquillo. After finally achieving some measure of peace and contentment on Long Island, Sam is yet again an accidental player in other people's dramas. It takes him into the world of private security goons, predatory financiers and lifestyles of young hedonists, some brave, some beautiful, all a bit lost. This time Sam has a few ambitions of his own that lead him into something all his battles in the ring and corporate boardrooms could never have prepared him for.

My Review: Knopf is one reliable writer. His Sam Acquillo is a noir hero with the right stuff, whose world is made up of wastes of space and friends. He doesn't much care which side of The Highway (local Hamptonsese for “the tracks”) you live on, were born on, made it big on...do you pull your own weight? Do you decline to play stupid status games? You got a shot at being on Team Acquillo.

In this outing, Sam's enemies are a smidge more removed from his life, since they come from his past as a major mover and shaker in the world of petrochemical engineering. Sam's whole life has been lived, since the implosion of that career with its house, car, marriage, status, and clothes, in an attempt to be what he always really was: A water rat scraping by, doing the carpentry and fixitry he loves best.

Sam's deep disdain for wealth and for showiness are on full display here. He's a brilliant engineer. He's not, however, greedy. And it works for, against, and through him in this book. The pace is pretty unremitting. The language is, as always, witty and amusing then turning into violent and angry. That's what we pay for, after all, when reading noir novels.

The cop characters are more fully drawn, and that helped; the villain, well, the villain is just a nasty piece of work and no doubt ever obtains as to what or how the crimes that were committed came about. There's a minor twist in the murderer's reveal. But it's this sense that Knopf has another hundred pages of needed backstory to reveal that keeps me rating these books in the middle threes. I love economical storytelling. I like a writer who leaves me some room to think what I want to think. But I also need to make some sort of real connection with the characters, all of them, or I don't see the point of working them into the story. Honest Boy, yes the character's name is Honest Boy, is my prime example here. He shows up with that moniker, which means he's got my attention, and then...piff gone for most of the book. When he shows back up it's not to do anything earth-shattering, either. He's set up for a return engagement, like the local journalist in the last book.

All in all, though, this is a solid book and it's by a solid writer and for noiristas this series is a strong bet. Dog lovers should read them just for Eddie Van Halen. I love that mutt. Go get one. No harm will come to your leisure budget.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. ( )
  richardderus | Nov 5, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Never having read any Knopf books before I did not know what to expect. I found this book to be a well paced book that kept my interest. I think I would've enjoyed this book more, if I would have started with the first book in the series. Regardless the writing is solid and the story moves along at a good pace. ( )
  mtwaldman | Aug 3, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Count me among those who were confused because we didn't know this book was part of a series. However, it was a swift, pretty enjoyable little mystery, even if I needed a flow chart to keep track of the cast of characters. Good humor and engaging plot make this a good entry into the series. ( )
  neilandlisa | Jul 23, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I picked this book because it came off as witty in the blurb.

The plot was solid and the reader is kept in the dark until the very end. This helped me press on because there are a lot of characters in his book, and while I'm sure may of them were introduced in previous novels, it was difficult for someone new to his work to keep track of them all. I had to keep going back and looking up the names of the people he was investigating, and those were new characters, for the most part.

I had a hard time engaging with any of the characters. We briefly meet Sam's daughter a few times. Sam's girlfriend, Amanda, swoops in and out. She's supportive yet eerily blasé, flitting in and out with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres oftentimes serving the intruders! There are lawyers who work for free, which I can understand if they're friends, but the legwork Jackie does for Sam makes her seem more like his personal shrive (part administrative assistant, part gumshoe). There are cops that share way too much information and bend way too many rules (yes they're friends, but really!!!). There are ambivalent henchmen and quirky assassins.

I also felt that Knopf's denouement was a little rapid. The case was solved but not fully resolved, and the wrap up is left a little open ended. It sort of felt like a crash landing.

All in all, this should have made for an entertaining read, but by the end, I was underwhelmed. Maybe I went in with the wrong expectations, perhaps it's just because it's the middle of the series, but from what I can surmise, Chris Knopf is not as witty as his blurb writer.

http://girlsjustreading.blogspot.com/2009/02/jenns-review-hard-stop.html ( )
  jaharnick | Jul 12, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I am also in the camp of many of the previous reviewers who were not aware that this was part of a series. I wasn't overly concerned about it when I did realize this, as I have read many other series out of order and with the context clues was able to happily settle into the worlds and characters. This is definitely NOT one of those series.

The brief glimpses the author shares into the characters past exploits didn't really give one a feel for them at all and did little to assuage the confusion this lack of familiarity poses. I could tell from these tidbits that the characters probably have a rich history, but it left me feeling more like an outsider not privy to some great secret. Not a great way to entice new readers to a series.

Moving past that, I was excited by the early confrontation and hopeful for more great action and quips as was found in the start. Unfortunately, that fizzled fairly quickly.

I found it impossible to sympathize or even care about the characters involved as they seemed rather cliche', the plot was overly predictable and unrealistic at times, and all in all it became more of a chore than a joy to read.

As a fan of the mystery/thriller genre, this novel left me colder than a corpse at a crime scene, and that is a shame. The synopsis held such hope. ( )
  KnitChaos | Jul 9, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 157962183X, Hardcover)

Sam Acquillo is getting to be alot more sociable. People are constantly dropping by, including guys in black outfits with .45 automatics breaking into his cottage in the middle of the night.Though on doctor's orders to stay clear of violence and mayhem, Sam does what's needed to encourage a candid conversation with the home invader, with surprising results.
Suddenly Sam's past reaches out to pull him back into the world of big money and even bigger egos, where the term "corporate intrigue" is redundant and ambition the only virtue. It seems a person important to the private life of a very important person has gone missing in the Hamptons. And it looks like the best way to get her back is to extort Sam's cooperation.
After finally achieving some measure of peace and contentment on the tip of Oak Point, overlooking the Little Peconic Bay, Sam is yet again an accidental player in other people's dramas. It takes him into the world of private security goons, predatory financiers and lifestyles of young hedonists, some brave, some beautiful, all a bit lost. But this time there's some added incentive. An opportunity Sam thought he'd never see again. The chance to get a bit of his old life back. The only piece he might actually want.
With lawyer Jackie Swaitkowski and cop friend Joe Sullivan reluctantly in tow, and the beautiful Amanda Anselma, fisherman Paul Hodges and mutt Eddie Van Halen eager to lend a hand, Sam is back on the quest.This time with a few ambitions of his own, which lead him into something all his battles in the ring and corporate boardroom could never have preapared him for.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:32 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Sam Acquillo plunges into the world of private security goons, predatory financiers, and young hedonists to locate a woman vital to the private life of a very important person from the Hamptons.

» see all 2 descriptions

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