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Hogdoggin' by Anthony Neil Smith
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I delayed a long time in reading this, Smith's second Billy Lafitte book. The first was so good that I guess I feared a letdown. I needn't have worried. If anything, Hotdoggin' is even more intense and out of control than its predecessor. After the events of the first novel, Lafitte has taken up residence in a motorcycle gang run by an interesting psycho named Steel God. But when a call comes in on his cellphone, Billy starts out on a trek South to Mobile, where his ex-wife and kids are living. Along the way, he gets into the kind of trouble that he seems to attract like a magnet. His main nemesis is Rome, the FBI agent from the first book who is bent on revenge against the man who wrecked his promising career. But Rome turns out to be only a small part of Lafitte's problem.

What sets Smith's books apart from those of nearly all his competitors is the characterization. We learn a whole lot more about Rome in this book, for instance (more than some readers may have ever wanted to know.) Rome's wife is also a major character, as is McKeown, an FBI agent he has a hold over and is using to further his vendetta against Lafitte. Also returning from the first book are Nate and Colleen, two deputies brought together by Lafitte in the first book who are now living together and deep in love. Steel God, the motorcycle gang leader, may be the most interesting of all. And Kristal, Lafitte's ambitious sleeping partner in the gang, isn't far behind.

It would be pointless to try to summarize the plot. Smith expertly weaves the different narrative strands from the point of view of the various main characters in and out of each other, with violence occurring at pretty much every intersection. With its gut-churning violence, despicable acts of cruelty, and kinky sex, this is not a book for the easily offended, squeamish, or prudish. But if you are a fan of noir, you will be riveted from beginning to end, because against this dark backdrop, Smith can also write about the characters' small kindnesses, acts of understanding, and realizations of their own mistakes with a skill that few writers possess.

The only thing that disappointed me a bit was the ending--but I hear that Smith is writing the third Billy Lafitte book now. After the first two, it is hard to see where he can take the story. But Lafitte seems to always escape, no matter how hemmed in he seems. I have confidence that Smith will be able to do the same. In the meantime, I'm moving on to some of his other books that I haven't read yet. And after reading this one, so should you. (Psychosomatic, for instance, is almost as good.) ( )
  datrappert | Apr 6, 2012 |
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