Wild Horses

Brian Hodge, Author
Brian Hodge, Author William Morrow & Company $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-688-16527-7
Mass Market Paperbound - 320 pages - 978-0-345-43810-2
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Extending the arc that has led him increasingly away from the horror content of his early '90s novels, Hodge (Prototype) serves up a soulful crime drama that blends the comic and macabre. When Las Vegas day-care worker Allison Willoughby discovers that her blackjack dealer boyfriend Boyd is cheating on her, she packs her bags and, out of spite, empties the hard drive of his laptop onto floppies, then erases the hard drive and sends the box to Mississippi with her belongings. Big mistake. Those disks contain access codes for accounts where Boyd has stashed three-quarters of a million dollars that he and aging showgirl Madeline DeCarlo have skimmed from casino profits. Oblivious to the turmoil that ensues, Allison embarks on a redemptive cross-country odyssey during which she comes to terms with her sexually abusive father and meets soulmate Thomas St. John. Fumbling in bloody pursuit are the double-crossing Boyd, and the double-crossed Madeline, whose new lover, cold-blooded hit man Gunther Manzetti, adds the requisite, but uniquely characterized, psychotic loose-cannon element to the loopy gang of money-grubbers. Hodge's plotting is routine and his prose often too lyrical for the tale's more hard-boiled moments. (Of two women having a fistfight, he writes, ""They flung each other out the door to land beneath the stars above this desert town where dreams and old dogs came to die""). But his well-drawn criminals make a memorable batch of bottom-feeders, particularly the eerie Gunther, who spends his time expanding his vocabulary and dispatching victims with Drano. Hodge orchestrates their foibles with a conviction that almost makes you believe, as they do, that there are sermons in bathroom graffiti and that the most outrageous twists of fate are the credible dividends of Vegas odds. (Mar.)
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