Friday 27 October 2017

Money Shot

(October 2017)

I love the unabashed pulpiness of the Hard Case Crime covers, even if I’d never actually read one prior to this. It certainly lives up (down?) to its billing.

Semi-retired porn star Angel Dare gets unwittingly entangled in an underworld transaction which goes horribly wrong. Left for dead, she enlists the help of disgracefully discharged ex-cop Lalo Malloy and goes about tracking down those who done her wrong. There’s 250 pages and bugger all fat; the plot proceeds from abduction to escape to investigation to revenge in very short order, which is exactly as it should be. I even found myself doing the thing where I flick forward a couple of chapters and scan the page for a character’s name just to make sure they’re still going, which is a pretty good sign that I’ve invested in a story with a decent amount of tension.

Yet barely a week after finishing it I can’t remember much about it. I say this not as a criticism, as I wasn’t looking for deep and meaningful ruminations on the nature of the human spirit, nor was this book looking to provide any, necessarily. In fact, now that I write this, one thing that does stick out is that Money Shot is almost refreshingly unconcerned about delineating moral shades of grey. But if it’s not about a moral continuum, then it is about making a choice, for all that these choices might be fairly binary. (There’s a far smarter consideration of this aspect of the book here.) Angel and Malloy indulge in a bit of (slightly labored) debate about the ethics of the porn industry, and for all that principally happens to establish later character motivation, it also ties in with that overriding theme; I can’t help harking back to China Miéville’s framing of rape as a crime of ‘choice theft’ in Perdido Street Station. When it comes to retribution, however, Angel has no compunction about lowering herself to her targets’ levels—which was rather thrilling, in its own way. For all you know you shouldn’t cheer when a bad guy gets shot point blank in the head, there’s a certain almost retro simplicity in doing so and knowing that the story won’t judge you for it. You go girl.

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