Short Money

Pete Hautman, Author Simon & Schuster $21 (287p) ISBN 978-0-684-80211-4
This exhilarating prequel to Drawing Dead is by turns funny and soulful and always unpredictable. Joe Crow has scraped bottom: he's lost his job as a cop for handcuffing the chief's troublesome nephew to his truck; he's got a cocaine problem; his marriage is on the rocks; his loathsome brother-in-law has just set him up as a bodyguard for Dr. Nelson Bellweather, the town liposuctionist; and it's a particularly grim winter in Minnesota. Bellweather feels threatened by the sociopathic Murphy clan, three dysfunctional generations of hunters and their matriarch who run a game preserve where, for the right price, they will procure any animal a client wants to shoot. Crow, suspecting that Bellweather himself isn't entirely innocent, finds himself entangled in a web of misunderstandings, crimes, near-crimes, lapses in judgment and inspired slapstick as each set of bumbling crooks tries to outmaneuver the others. Hautman's dialogue sparkles, his plot hums, he's got a nicely complex sense of morality and he's a virtuoso when it comes to describing what it feels like to get punched. Best of all is Joe Crow: moving among nuts and crazies; comparing Alcoholics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous meetings (the coke addicts are funnier); breaking heads when necessary; and bonding with Milo, his cat. May he never learn that discretion is the better part of valor. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/01/1995
Release date: 05/01/1995
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