Okay, you got me, I’ll admit it. I like Cheez-Its, and not just a few, but whole handfuls of crunchy, cheddary goodness. I like lazy Saturday mornings, too, forgetting the alarm clock and letting breakfast stretch toward noon while deliberately ignoring the shaggy state of my lawn. I like listening to bellicose rock, laughing at lolcats and reading slightly snarky political commentary. I also like novels that major in fun, unpretentious reads whose authors put serious character development and weighty sociological commentary second to unexamined enjoyment. Which, I suppose, is a way of saying that I like John McFetridge’s crime caper Dirty Sweet.
All struggling commercial realtor Roxanne Keyes wanted was a Starbucks. What she got instead was a front-row seat to a mob hit, a shooter getting out of the passenger seat of a Volvo, putting three bullets into the brain of a guy idling behind him and then pulling away as calm as can be when the light turned green. She told that to the police when they came. But she didn’t tell them that she thought she’d recognized the getaway man, a Russian guy named Boris to whom she’d once tried to lease some office space. Roxanne isn’t unnerved by this newfound knowledge. She sees it as an asset, a way to cancel out a professional predicament, the kind of debt not recorded in ledgers or recouped by collection agencies.
As you can probably gather from the title, McFetridge populates his first novel with unsavory sorts, a gaggle of mostly dim-witted ne'er do wells that indulge or deal in vices such as (breath) murder, theft, exotic dancing, arson, online smut, money laundering, fornication, drug use, grand theft auto, human trafficking and -- just for good measure -- music piracy. Fortunately, he mostly avoids prurient detail, keeping the nasty stuff in the spaces between sections or burying it in oblique transitions. And one shouldn’t think that the gritty matter or unsympathetic characters indicate a lack of literary chops. A keen sense of humor and an eye for the ironies of Canadian life (the book is set in Toronto) are in evidence page after page after page. Wry and rollicking, Dirty Sweet is a treat.
(Picture: CC 2009 by BenSpark)