Some combinations are simply meant to be. Consider milk chocolate and peanut butter, how that creamy sweetness meets with savory saltiness in just such a way that you want to gobble copious amounts until a cardial infarction looms. Others obviously aren't. My wife tells a story of how, during her starving student days, a friend spiked her pasta marinara sauce with curry powder when her back was turned. A few fusions, though, sit uneasily in no man's land, neither transcendently harmonious nor gratingly wrong. Such is the case with Andrew Klavan's blending of hardboiled, thriller and romanticism in Dynamite Road.
Jim Bishop and Scott Weiss couldn't be more different. Muscled, mean and amoral, Bishop isn't above breaking skulls or casually bedding other men's wives to get what he wants. Weiss is a former cop, a soft, shaggy hulk of a man with such an exalted view of the female sex that he can never bring himself to build even the beginnings of a relationship, much less move it towards marriage. So it's amazing that they could stand to be in the same room together, much less form a successful working relationship. But somehow they have, and the private-eye firm of Weiss Investigations does good business. This latest job, though, may prove too dangerous for even the both of them. What begins as an inquiry into small-town racketeering soon spirals into a search for a transcendentally beautiful prostitute named Julie Wyant and the murderer known only as Shadowman who hunts her. Either would prove challenging to find under normal circumstances, but these are anything but. Wyant, you see, is supposed to be dead, and Shadowman, well, no one is really sure if he even exists.
No doubt about it, Klavan knows the crime novel cold. He owns the tropes and never fails deal them out in an entertaining fashion. "Slow burn" describes Wise and Bishop's adventures to a T, everything smoldering along at an increasing temperature until some crucial bit of kindling catches and it all explodes into flame. It makes sense, then, in telling such a story to join tough-guy mystery with breakneck thriller. What seems a little odd is the unabashed romanticism infusing the proceedings. There are kisses stolen at gunpoint and lots of mooning over the come-hither glances from an angelic whore. We even learn that Shadowman himself is motivated by ... But, wait, let's not ruin it. Suffice it to say that while Dynamite Road is ultimately a tasty read, some parts possess a strange savor.
(Picture: CC 2007 by peteSwede)