Willem van den Oever's Reviews > The Hot Kid

The Hot Kid by Elmore Leonard
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's review
May 26, 2011

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bookshelves: thriller-mystery, in-english
Read from September 05 to 10, 2011

Balancing somewhere between his early Western-themed days and his own memories from living in Oklahoma, Elmore Leonard leads the reader back to the swinging 1930’s; with colored boys introducing the sounds of blues and jazz to the rest of the world, rattling roadsters driving down dusty dirtpaths amongst the pecan grooves and speakeasies flourishing under the Prohibition Act.
It is in this wild world, stuck somewhere between a sheriff-ruled yesterday and the hot, new days, that we meet Carl Webster, the rising star of the US Marshals, and Jack Belmont, the no good son of an oil millionaire who started with petty blackmail and by now has his mind deadest on becoming Public Enemy Number One.

There’s no doubt Leonard can handle a world inhabited by fast-talking, fast-shooting crooks, cops and gun molls. Yet ‘The Hot Kid’ is not the strongest work in his oeuvre. Most problematic is its plot, which is awfully fragmented at times and where only through backflashes those holes are filled up again. A puzzling, unnecessarily complicated way to tell its tale, which other than this, doesn’t contain many surprises.
What it does contain are some sour disappointments, where interesting side-characters are surprisingly easily disposed off after thirty-odd pages. Disappointingly so, because these guys and gals are often much more interesting to read about than the leads of ‘The Hot Kid’. Jack Belmont turns from petty crook to stereotypical supervillian, coldheartedly killing girlfriends left and right. Even more frustrating is the arrogant nature of Webster, a flat-as-a-dime sheriff who is so cocksure that it’s hard to care about him by the end of the ride.

Read this one for its swinging background and the period-true ring to its dialogue. Oldtime Oklahoma lives and breaths again through Leonard’s words, but the character who are supposed to take one along for the ride, are people you’d rather kick off at the next busstop.

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