Bloodthirsty by Marshall Karp

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Bloodthirsty by Marshall Karp

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A murder of a Hollywood producer scuppers a breadwinning movie deal for our LA policemen heroes, as they return for a comedy adventure that is even better than the first. The zesty telling makes it easily recommendable.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: May 2008
Publisher: Allison & Busby
ISBN: 978-0749080891

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Lomax and Briggs, our returning heroes, are relishing the chance of dabbling in the world of the movies. Having an option on the story of their first adventure bought by a Hollywood producer is making them lick their lips. However, before the director who is interested in the project can get them in touch with the hot-shot impresario, said producer, Barry Gerber, is located, dumped unceremoniously and very uncomplainingly dead, in a Hollywood Hills dustbin.

Dirtier than his final location however is his life – a story riddled with diddling and dallying of all sexual kinds, drugs and all other improprieties. When the pair of policemen ask someone who could have had cause to kill him, they are handed the LA phone book and told to start there. Can they possibly hide their expected regret, ignore their annoyingly present superiors, and identify first the cause of death, then motive, and finally murderer?

With this comedy thriller, you have several elements to relish, and it's pleasing to say they are possibly even more enjoyable than first time out. Briggs is still the wannabe stand-up, although he resorts to sitting down in squad cars for his sharpest routines. He doesn't just stumble around as comedic side-kick, however, the black humour provided by him (and not exclusively by him) is most welcome.

Lomax is still our narrator, and as before enjoys both the challenge of the job and the telling of it. His voice is very likeable as narrator, and as a way into Hollywood's clichés is suitably cynical. He's more than the grumpy cop, as well – with his recurring visions of the loss of his wife providing a most definite third dimension.

There is the setting, again, and while there is a strong suggestion that Karp is hitting a huge target with his broadsides, he lays into the semi-hidden dirt, unsavouriness and falsity of the movies just as he did with the theme park world of the first book. The unkind would say he didn't exactly pick on a difficult subject from which to raise his thematic demons, but one cannot ignore the reality he seems to my eyes to get into the milieu.

Beyond that, there is the plotting of the thriller. It has to be said this book is a lot thinner than the first – 370 pages, with lots of huge chapter breaks and large spacious print. I was a long way through when I began to consider the investigation as too formulaic, too pat and too easy for our heroes, but within a few minutes, it had thrown a huge curve-ball at me. The thinness was only a disguise.

Added to that is the returning Karp habit of bringing the baddies into the picture very early on, which might suggest he is hinging his whole book on motive and setting, in some attempt perhaps at a more literary thriller. This is not the case – not successfully, at least – but the book is a winner on all fronts. Sure, there might be a bit of cheesiness with the patter and humorous dialogue, but the easiness of the comedy does win you over.

The characters are all likeable and (beyond their sense of humour, perhaps) realistic. It's a very pleasant experience, being in the hands of Lomax and his partner. And they're not just the jolly side of things tacked on to a paper-thin mystery, for the thriller side of the book as I say is worth admission on its own.

What is most satisfying, however, is the zing given to the whole book – the verve aided by the levity, and drifting even to the darker settings, such as the morgue, and our encounters with the culprits. There is nothing a certificate 15 film couldn't include, and the book is very accessible to a large audience with its being noticeably light on the present sex, violence, gore, drugs and language, despite the underlying depravity.

If someone with enough smarts about them filmed it – Hollywood being clever-clever again and looking inward at itself – I would not be at all surprised. For the meantime, there is a very brisk and zesty comedy thriller for all to enjoy. I enjoyed it anyway, and even if I didn't get every joke I cannot help but recommend this and give it a healthy Bookbag rating.

I would like to thank Allison and Busby for sending us a review copy.

For another mystery in a similar setting, we can recommend Die A Little by Megan Abbott or Harbour Nocturne by Joseph Wambaugh. We also enjoyed What I Tell You in the Dark by John Samuel.

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