Money Shot is a violent and fast-paced crime thriller set in the contemporary LA porn scene, and it's much better than that might sound. At first thisMoney Shot is a violent and fast-paced crime thriller set in the contemporary LA porn scene, and it's much better than that might sound. At first this milieu seems as if it's going to be an excuse for wink-wink nudge-nudge sex-puns, but the darker aspects of human trafficking and exploitation emerge as the story progresses. Fortunately, except for one conversation with a flustered P.I., there isn't much moralizing here. The industry is neither painted exclusively as a girls-doing-their-thing wonderland nor as a seething pit of drug-addled despair. It's just the matter-of-fact world of these characters, and when they find themselves on the wrong side of it, they navigate it as only insiders could.
Faust opens with a deft hook that begins with the narrator left for dead in a trunk, then moves backwards through the two preceding scenes before dropping the reader back at the point of entry. She also has an eye for picking a single detail to help draw a moment into sharp focus, such as observing a corpse's single toe poking through a torn black sock. The plot hits all the beats it needs to in all the right places without feeling rote, and while there are moments that strain credulity, none of them feel too over-the-top in the novel's mix of low-end celebrity sleaze and contemporary pulp brutality. Money Shot is grimy, nasty entertainment and it's a damn good time if that's what you're looking for. ...more
Burke, a hard case criminal-type with a heart of gold, is on a mission to find out who set up the assassination attem**spoiler alert** Oh, good lord.
Burke, a hard case criminal-type with a heart of gold, is on a mission to find out who set up the assassination attempt that cost him an eye and the life of his beloved dog, Pansy. He teams up with Gem, sexy, mystical Asian woman and her lustrous, black hair who--despite her apparent lifelong history as an underworld operator--simply can't help jumping in the sack and then falling in love with our aging, disfigured hero. (She parades around naked, sits in his lap sucking his thumb, and loves listening to him explain the history of blues and do-wop and marveling at his pool-shooting skills.) Anyway, it turns out Burke has run afoul of an elaborate scam to fleece Neo-Nazi pedophiles who hope to live on a secret fascist-pervert island together and raise an Aryan incest army.
Wow. It would be funny if it wasn't so appalling.
This book is about 125 pages too long--and while some sequences have that stripped-down scheming momentum found in the best of Richard Stark (earning it my second star)--much of it felt like filler. Do I need a scene of Burke doing a ride-along with a cop to watch the drunk-driving prevention class he teaches? (And as the cop is supposed to be helping him on the down-low, why is he parading Burke around in front of high school kids?) How many pages should be spent with Gem and Burke banging in hotel rooms and chatting over room-service meals? Why are they heading out to go shoot pool again? Aren't there Russian mafia pedonazis they need to hunt? Doesn't Burke have a dog to avenge?
The thing that makes it all collapse is the utterly absurd conspiracy at the book's core. It's somehow simultaneously offensive and comical. Hyperbolic, James-Bond level villains don't mix well with real-world sufferings like child-trafficking and hate groups. It's like reading a Fantastic Four comic in which you find out Doctor Doom is a serial rapist. The tonal/conceptual dissonance is too much to process.
I read Shella (not a Burke novel) before this, and other than a lengthy detour into the day-to-day of a Neo-Nazi compound in Illinois (What is with Vachss and Nazis? Is this like a thing he does?) I found it to be a lean, gritty page-turner with just enough over-the-top melodrama to keep things interesting. This one, though, doesn't work. I'm sure there are better books in this series, if only because there are like 20 or something. If anyone can recommend one that's more solid, I'll give it a shot. There's a lot to like in what Vachss does with Burke, but Dead and Gone was probably not the best introduction....more