Monday, May 12, 2014

Plaster City - Johnny Shaw
First line: "Ceja Carneros hit me so hard he broke his watch on my head."

Jimmy Veeder's good friend Bobby Maves refuses to grow up, until a shot of adult reality hits him square in the heart. His teenage daughter is missing.

Bobby turns to Jimmy for help. Now Jimmy is caught between his obligations to his family and his friendship with Bobby. Determined to make both work, he packs up to head out in search of Bobby's daughter. The "Mavescapade" to rival all Mavescapades takes the duo from swanky new-money neighborhoods to deserted ghost towns in Southern California. Bobby's unpredictable volatility puts their friendship and their lives in danger as they encounter (among others) a young artist, a biker gang and a very dangerous friend from Jimmy's childhood. If they aren't careful, Bobby's daughter may not be the only one missing.

As you know from previous books I've reviewed, I'm sometimes slow to the cool kids' party. Plaster City is Johnny Shaw's third book and second featuring Jimmy Veeder. It's my first time reading Shaw and I can't believe I didn't get here sooner. What. Fun!

Plaster City is witty, quick-paced and full of fascinating characters. The crime is gritty and visual but not gratuitous. The action is loud, the dialogue is natural and the setting is off the beaten path.

There is a lot to love about this book, but among my favorite elements is Shaw's depiction of complex, human relationships, especially between the male characters. Whether it's between Bobby and Jimmy, Jimmy and his son or Bobby and his father, there's machismo and compassion and humor and anger and fear and it all comes through in these delicate relationships between hardened men. Shaw gives his readers an eye-opening look under the armor.

Plaster City pokes a stick at some rough social issues, so while it will have readers laughing out loud, it will also force them to see life's ugly underbelly. This is an all-around hard-boiled crime novel: hard topics, hard language and hard violence. It's also hard to beat, so sign me up for the Johnny Shaw fan club.

Plaster City is available in trade paperback (ISBN: 9781477817582) from Thomas and Mercer. There is also an unabridged audio version (ISBN: 9781480580886), narrated by Scott Merriman, from Brilliance Audio. 


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