Beautiful, Naked & Dead by Josh Stallings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Moses Mcguire is at the end of his rope. An ex-marine scarred by a peacekeeping tour of Lebanon and a convict scarred by a prison sentence, he wakes up each day with a gun in his hand, wondering if he can muster up the courage to end the pain once and for all. Moses works as a bouncer at a seedy Los Angeles strip club, mind-numbing work where he is only kept sane by talking to Kelly, the shy waitress who is too bashful to take off her clothes and dance for the lonely, haunted men who patronize the club. One morning Moses receives a strange phone call from Kelly cryptically mumbling about her sister and that things are not all as they seem. When Moses arrives at her apartment, he finds that she has been tortured and murdered. After a brief time as a suspect in the killing, Moses is cleared and sets out to find the elusive sister and answer the question of why this seemingly harmless girl was murdered. Moses has to navigate a witches brew of mafia, cops and feds, before he can rescue the sister and make the final showdown with the killers. This was a well done story, Moses McGuire is a very compelling character, and the action and suspense is rocket fueled throughout. There are a few implausible scenes, but hey, it's pulp fiction, right? Stallings wears his influences on his sleeve: Andrew Vachss, Charlie Huston, Joe R. Lansdale, but since these are some of my favorite storytellers it made the tale all the more enjoyable for me. Definitely recommended for fans of hard-boiled noir fiction that unflinchingly examines the seedier side of the American dream. Beautiful, Naked & Dead - amazon.com
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