A Long Walk Up the Waterslide

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This is (so far) the penultimate book in Don Winslow's Neal Carey series. My take on the previous entries in the series: here, here, and here. They're all fine reading; although seemingly out of print, they're available and inexpensive for Kindle.

In this installment, Neal is living in Austin, Nevada with the local schoolmarm, with whom he became enraptured in the previous book. He's on a well-deserved hiatus from doing odd (but always dangerous) jobs for Friends of the Family, a mysterious Rhode Island bank that caters to its ultrarich clientele. Neal's mentor, the one-armed Joe Graham, appears with an (apparently) non-dangerous but extremely odd job: the family-oriented broadcasting empire of Jack Landis and wife Candy is threatened by the accusations of trashy bimbo Polly Paget. She claims that, after a sordid affair with Jack, she tried to break up with him and was raped. (Think: Jim Bakker, Tammy Faye, and Jessica Hahn.)

Landis's partner, who is a client of Friends, sees Polly as a lever to take control of the lucrative Landis empire. Only problem is that Polly's heavy New Jersey diction and her scrambled bimbo brain make her completely non-credible. So she's gone into hiding, and Neal's task is to be Henry Higgins: smooth off Polly's rough edges and get her ready for a media circus.

But there are a couple problems there too: the minor one is that a sleazy skin-mag publisher wants Polly to appear in his publication en déshabillé (as one of the characters puts it) and hires a has-been alcoholic detective to track her down. The major problem: mobster Joey Beans wants Polly dead (for initially unexplained reasons) and hires a mysterious assassin nicknamed "Overtime" to do the deed.

All these people find it ridiculously easy to track down Polly in Austin, and Neal's job suddenly gets a lot more complex and dangerous.

This is a much lighter entry in the series than its predecessors. Winslow shows that he can be the equal of Carl Hiaasen or the late Donald Westlake in the hard-boiled comic crime fiction sub-genre; it's laugh-out-loud, read-to-your-wife hilarious in spots.


Last Modified 2014-12-10 12:22 PM EDT