|Posted on September 15, 2016 at 2:30 PM|
50 Feet of Trouble by Justin S. Robinson
Following up his smash hit, City of Devils, Justin Robinson returns to his horrific Los Angeles for another noir comedy monster movie mashup, starring the last human private detective in the greater LA basin: Nick Moss.
Like Nick’s first adventure, Fifty Feet starts off with a missing, um . . . a missing companion tale. That quickly gets upgraded to missing person, and then missing persons. Nick has his work cut out for him here, and the stakes start off as high as they come. The first actual missing person may as well have been Nick’s own flesh and blood.
Robinson writes with his trademark homage-to-Chandler style, giving all the right nods in all the right places, and he puts his hard-boiled private eye through the paces like the best noir thrillers out there. Just when you think Nick’s caught a break, he nearly gets broken. Again.
Robinson also brings back the best cast of characters to hit the page since Sam Spade, Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Joel Cairo, and Caspar Gutman, and he adds a few new players into the bargain.
These are the monsters you know and love: The Salem Sisters, Hexene, Serendipity Sargasso. Sam the Pumpkinhead and the werewolf LAPD. Everybody gets some page time. Then you have all the other things that go bump in the night that populate this monstrous Los Angeles.
Some favorites of mine: the Phantoms – you know the type. Pasty flesh, rouged mouths, horrific disfigurements, and the ability to detect and identify any form of music. In City of Devils, we met a Phantom band, which always had me thinking vaguely of the Misfits or Metallica. In Fifty Feet, we meet Miss Bella Fontaine, who has this to say about harmonicas:
“Harmonicas give voice the transient murderer inside us.”
Just so you know who you’re dealing with here.
On that, coulrophobes be warned. This one has killer clowns in it, along with werewolves, vampires, and ogres (to name a few). If I was in love with what Robinson did in City of Devils, I have to upgrade my appreciation of his wit and innovation to enthralled with Fifty Feet of Trouble.
You’ll get that line a couple times in the story, right around when the Reverend Bobo Gigglesworth shows up. And what a show he puts on. The whole bit, slapstick and all, and right when you least expect it, a mouthful of horrific clown fangs are steaming up your glasses and giving you the serious heebie-jeebies.
Three guesses how you fend off a killer clown in Robinson’s version of Los Angeles.
Not to be outdone, the human side of the city has a crew of vigilantes called the Normandie Knights. The gang is your basic set of street toughs. They spend most of their time off screen, and we're told they get up to no good and cause more problems than they solve. But they also add another layer to the City of Devils. Their presence takes the book slightly off the comedic path and into the realm of speculative fiction, where the occasional bit of commentary gets mixed in with one-liners. I liked the addition of the Normandie Knights and hope to see more of them in the next Nick Moss adventure.
It’s anyone’s guess when Nick will be ready for more action. After what he deals with in Fifty Feet of Trouble, I’d say he’s earned a vacation. Maybe not on a pleasure yacht or anything, but a little feet up and time off somewhere safe would do the man good.
Justin Robinson’s latest noir-comedy-with-monsters tale is a winner, top to bottom. The book opens with a grand slam and soars through thrills and laughs at every turn of the page. If you like noir, classic monster movies, laughs-a-minute writing, and you have a soft spot for the underdog, you need this book in your hands.
Categories: Book Reviews