Pike by Benjamin Whitmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Reformed criminal Pike's life is turned upside down when his estranged daughter dies and a twelve year old granddaughter he never knew existed is tossed in his lap. Pike and partner Rory head to Cincinnati to find out what happened to his daughter. Meanwhile, a dirty Cincinatti cop named Kreiger has interests in Pike's daughter and granddaughter...
Benjamin Whitmer's debut novel is a bleak noir tale that explores the Kentucky backwoods and seedy underbelly of Cincinatti in the old days of 1985. He does equally well depicting the redneck way of life as well as the ghetto life of pimps, junkies, and whores.
Pike reminds me of an older version of Richard Stark's Parker. He'll do whatever it takes to get the job done, dragging Rory along with him. It's essentially a detective story, Pike digging into his dead daughter's past as a junkie and prostitute, but it also feels like a western at times. The violence is frequent and brutal.
As I said before, Pike reminds me of Richard Stark's Parker and I can see Stark's influence in the writing at times, but the primary authors Pike brings to mind are Jim Thompson and Chester Himes. Pike's struggles with his past remind me of Thompson quite a bit and I couldn't help thinking of Chester Himes when Pike and Rory went to Cincinatti. They reminded me of redneck outlaw versions of Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones. Normally I don't go for stories written in the present tense but I feel Whitmer used it well here.
Any complaints? Not really. I wouldn't have minded more of Pike's granddaughter Wendy and a little more of Kreiger but those are pretty nitpicky complaints.
That's about all I can say without blowing any of the plot. The book is short but really powerful. Much like a good punk rock song, it was perfect at the length it was and any more would probably have been too much. It's an easy four star book.
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