Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Review: What We Reckon

What We Reckon What We Reckon by Eryk Pruitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel starts out in a seedy motel room as two shady people with a hollowed-out Bible full of stolen cocaine buy fake IDs.

We’ve all been there, right?

The couple we know as Jack and Summer are desperate to leave their old lives behind, and they quickly make their way to a small East Texas college town where they plan to sell the coke and get their act together. Sort of. What we soon see is that Jack and Summer’s partnership is based around a combination of grifting and drug dealing. Summer plays the typical hippie college girl whose spacey persona hides a knack for inserting herself in social circles and identifying the weak spots that can be exploited. Jack acts as Summer’s friendly dealer who is always looking to sell or score bigger quantities.

They’ve got a good racket going, but it becomes apparent why the two of them are constantly on the move. While they’re smart and sly enough to con some local college kids and dealers for a while, they’re a little too fond of their own products. They’ve also got a dysfunctional, non-romantic relationship in which they frequently end up trying to sabotage each other only to realize time again that the other person is the only one who knows the ‘real’ version. When fueled by drugs and paranoia they create explosive situations that do immense damage to those around them.

This is a helluva crime novel that sets up a scenario that depends almost entirely on making you understand these two self-destructive agents of chaos. Jack and Summer are unforgettable characters, and the writing deftly made me shift from feeling sorry for them to being absolutely sure that they were pure evil. After a variety of twist and turns that I didn’t see coming it ends the only way it could. There’s also a great sense of verisimilitude to the various Texas settings and situations like small time drug dealing in a college town.

I got this novel by chance when I picked it as one of the freebies available when I attended Bouchercon in Dallas. I chose this one just based on the description without knowing anything else about it or the author, and I was pleasantly surprised when I later saw Eryk Pruitt hosting a very fun Noir At The Bar event. Then the next day he moderated an excellent panel on modern noir so I made a point of seeking him out later and getting this one signed. Now I’m very glad I got a chance to meet him because he’s a writer I want to read more of.

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