Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Vegas Knockout

If there is not already a subgenre of noir fiction called noir comedy, there should be – and Tom Schreck’s The Vegas Knockout is a good example of how it should be done.  Noir fiction always seems to be set in the shadows of the real world, places where the best and worst human characteristics are on display in settings that are a little starker and more intimidating than they might be in the real world.  Las Vegas, a city with a long history of mob connections and fast money, is one of those places one can easily picture in noir terms, and Vegas is the setting of Schreck’s sixth (by my count, at least) Duffy Dombrowski mystery.

Duffy Dombrowski is a social worker for a New York Jewish nonprofit organization.  At least that is how Duffy pays the bills, but if asked about his occupation, he would identify himself as a professional boxer – and a pretty good one, at that.  The problem is that his natural ability only makes him good enough to serve as a professional sparring partner for the guys making all the money.  Duffy’s own professional matches usually pay a few hundred bucks at most.

Tom Schreck
Surprised by an out-of-the-blue offer of a job in Vegas to help prepare a Russian heavyweight for his title match, Duffy jumps at the chance, arranges to scuttle his social work responsibilities for two weeks, and makes his way to Vegas – with Al, his rescued basset hound, in tow.  There he learns that nothing is quite what he expected it would be.  His first surprise -that the Las Vegas house he was promised, and which he has invited his four favorite drinking buddies to share with him, is a trailer on the grounds of a brothel - will prove to be the least of his problems.

If Duffy is to leave Vegas in one piece, he will need some help from his friends – all five of them, including his dog.  Al has a way with the ladies that even Duffy has to admire, and the protective hound is sometimes a better judge of character than his supposed master (I say supposed because Al really has no master).  Al and the four New York barflies are the source of most of the book’s comic moments but they also play key roles in moving this wild tale along.  Bottom line: The Vegas Knockout, despite its violent backdrop, will make you laugh more often than it will horrify you.  This is noir comedy with the emphasis on the comedy part of the equation – and I loved it.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

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