Sunday, June 3, 2018

Review: Blood Standard

Blood Standard Blood Standard by Laird Barron
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

When he sees his fellow gangsters killing walruses for fun, Isaiah Coleridge chops one of them in the throat and winds up exiled to a work farm in upstate New York. A teenage girl also staying at the farm disappears and Isaiah means to find her, stirring up a hornet's nest of gang members and corrupt law enforcement...

2017 was the year of Laird Barron for me. I managed to read every book he had in print so it was a no-brainer that I'd pick up this one, his first foray into crime fiction. Barron's prose is rooted in noir so I knew he'd do a great job.

Blood Standard is a mystery but Isaiah Coleridge is no Philip Marlowe. He pretty much bulldozes his way around, kicking ass and pissing people off. In some ways, he's a lot like Conrad Navarro, the protagonist of The Light is the Darkness, a brute of a man who would have been better off being born a thousand years earlier.

The writing was as I expected, grim, gruesome stuff written with a sort of poetry. Like Isaiah, I suspect Laird Barron wouldn't mind a Homburg and an overcoat, although he'd be wearing his someplace cold and desolate. If I wouldn't have been reading a physical copy, I would have highlighted half of the book on my Kindle.

Isaiah's a little more complicated than all of that, a half-Maori man haunted by his mother's death at the hands of his father when he was fifteen. Papa Coleridge is a piece of work, a career military man who went mercenary. While Isaiah wouldn't agree with, he's a lot more like his father than he'd like to admit.

While I don't pretend to understand Isaiah, I understand his motivations. It brought a tear to my eye when someone asked Isaiah why he did what he did and he said "I miss my dog." Animals and kids have an innocence that should be preserved. Yeah, I miss my dog too.

Isaiah's case takes him up against the White Manitou, a Native American organized crime organization, and corrupt cops and FBI agents. By the time the dust is settled and the blood is dried, the case is closed but not a lot of good came of it. The classic noir ending, in fact.

The supporting cast went a long way toward making Isaiah seem like more than a human wrecking ball. Lionel, Isaiah's drunken co-worker at the ranch, is the kind of friend every man wants, one that would follow him through the gates of hell. I also liked that Meg was tough and didn't immediately jump on Isaiah's groin. She proved to be a many-faceted character.

There were a whole lot of loose ends left behind but that's not all that surprising. If you follow Laird Barron on social media, you know he's already got the next Coleridge book in the can. I'm looking forward to Isaiah's next blood-spattered outing.

Laird Barron's first steps into the world of crime fiction were even better than I expected. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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