Thursday Reviews: The Devil’s Right Hand by JD Rhoades; Day Of Wrath by Jonathan Valin

The Devil’s Right Hand

JD Rhoades

Full disclosure: Dusty Rhoades wrote the intro to Road Rules. (Buy it now, you cheap bastards!)

That said, I can say if I’d never met him, I still would have loved The Devil’s Right Hand, the beginning of Rhoades’ Jack Keller series. Keller is one seriously screwed up individual. Having survived a friendly fire incident in Iraq that killed everyone else in his unit, he still has nightmares and nurses a grudge against the military brass who white-washed the whole thing. So he did what any man suffering from what is clearly PTSD would do: Become a bounty hunter.

He is on the trail of Dewayne Puryear, a not-too-bright chap who ditched a court date for a misdemeanor charge in order to commit armed robbery. Funny thing about armed robberies. People quite often die during them, and this one is no exception. Keller’s hunt for him puts him on the bad side of some really bad cops (Not so much corrupt as having some rage control issues of their own) and in the cross-hairs of a drug trafficker out for revenge. It also puts him in the bed of one Marie Jones, a police officer whose career is going down in flames over the whole mess.

Dewayne is your typical small-time criminal, usually impulsive and not very bright, thinking three grand is quite a haul. The real villains in this are Detective Stacy, who is one of those cops other cops worry about, the ones who not only think everyone is guilty, but are willing to put everyone under the rubber hose to prove it. But he is little more than a frustrated man with a chip on his shoulder. He is nothing compared to Raymond Oxendine, the vengeful trafficker whose father was killed by Dewayne’s brother in the hold up. Oxendine is single-minded in his quest to dispense justice, or his warped version of it. He reminds me a lot of Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men. A solid first effort that comes off as raw 12-bar blues.

Day of Wrath

Jonathan Valin

There are worse things than growing up on Eastlawn Drive in Cincinnati. I know. I live about a mile from that neighborhood. Harry Stoner, Valin’s world-weary private investigator, comes here to look for Robbie Seagal, a fourteen-year-old girl who has had enough of Eastlawn’s faux prosperity. The trail leads to the Mt. Adams nightclub scene, an enigmatic guitar player named Theo, and the warped daughter of one of Cincinnati’s richest families. It’s the family that poses the gravest threat to Stoner. The daughter is just crazy enough to kill Robbie if it suits her bizarre fetishes. Several people try to wave Stoner off. But when Stoner discovers the truth, it’s far worse than anyone dares imagine.

I’ve read a couple of Stoner novels, and this one sees Valin getting his details about Cincinnati down. I actually did an IT contract at a factory he mentions as being in Robbie Seagal’s neighborhood. Moreover, Valin gets down this city’s resistance to change and its need to fake prosperity. It’s the dark side of living in this rather quiet city.