That vital blend of connection, passion, brutality, and poetry powers the novel that follows, which finds the pair immediately on the run in Heath’s Crown Vic—turns out that biker whose head Heath cracked open was “connected.” Wolf invests this classic setup with tenderness and terror, a romantic’s love of doomed heroes trying to outrun their pasts, and a deep love of his milieu, as his leads, thrilled to be shaken out of their lives, relish the “new world” they share together. One glittering passage finds them taking time to ride an iconic Santa Cruz roller coaster, rising above the fog line to behold “the soft churn of white from the waves crashing over the black, shadowy shore.” Passages about surfing, sailing, cocaine, and downing shots at a beach dive bar boast that same pared-down lyricism, finding beauty in life without overstating it.
This is a thriller, though, with the threat of violence sharpening every reverie. The chatter and scheming of killers, cartel chiefs, and others hunting (and eventually setting a trap) for Heath and Rori is always sharply etched, but scenes without the leads lack the electric connection that powers the novel, settling instead into good crime writing rather than something more transcendent. The ending, though, is killer … and surprisingly heartening.
Takeaway: This epic late 80s Cali noir thriller finds lovers on the lam, seizing life in the face of death.
Great for fans of: Kem Nunn’s Tapping the Source, Barry Gifford’s Wild at Heart.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-