Setting Alex’s hard-noir holiday apart is the author’s preference for action over the existential paralysis that sometimes afflicts private eyes. That’s not to say Doc doesn’t despair—“And god was a powerless mook with no more power to do anything about any of it than Bozo the Clown,” he muses early on—but when heavies would work over the likes of Philip Marlowe, Doc will squash one’s eyeball with his sap then draw his Glock. Alex captures the dustups and dangers with crisp, precise language, at times daring the outrageous—"Titus yanked, and continued to do so, taking a chunk of the crotch with him.” That stirs a sense of rugged tension even during shoe-leather investigation scenes. When Doc and co. sneak through cartel tunnels, Alex wrings gut-churning suspense from the possibility of tripwires and armed guards.
The novel’s long, demandingly so, and sometimes proudly over the top, the grim developments penned with a sense of play but still taken seriously. While the thugs and ne’er-do-wells at times edge toward stock types—notable characters include Termite, Slim Biffle, Fede Gu, and Moustapha Standish—Doc and compatriots like Ilsa and Lucretia, whose dog Doc commits to recovering, remain engaging throughout as they “follow the money, find the truth” no matter how dark.
Takeaway: Living up to its title, this hard-edged P.I. epic dives into desert darkness and action.
Great for fans of: Matthew McBride, Max Allan Collins.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of the Series
Reviewed in the United States on June 25, 2022
The language was consistent. The characters were deep and realistic. Every page has exciting action. All the books are good, but this is outstanding. The story seemed much longer, but it was engrossing and exciting in every page. I wish I had more stars to add.