cover image Skinny Annie Blues

Skinny Annie Blues

Neal Barrett, Jr.. Kensington Publishing Corporation, $21.95 (248pp) ISBN 978-1-57566-058-5

Imagine Robert Ludlum on laughing gas and you'll have the spirit of Wiley Moss's third adventure (after Pink Vodka Blues and Dead Dog Blues). Wiley's father, who abandoned him 18 years ago, dies in Texas. Smelling a rat and ignoring threats from the menacing cop in charge, Wiley departs his Washington, D.C., home (he's a graphic artist who works for the Smithsonian) for steamy Galveston. Redneck thugs try to run him down; greeters from a strip joint open fire on him. Dad's widow, Grace, gives him a high-speed ride in her car, despite being blind. Annie, a beautiful restaurateur, arouses Wiley's lust but seeks union on a higher plane. Harry Sykes, con artist and car thief, says Wiley's father had a major ""enterprise"" going. Wiley, remembering that his father gave him a stolen bike for one birthday, assumes a scam. As local lowlifes and the sinister cop pump him for information, try to kill him or pretend to protect him, Wiley gets pushed off a pier, beaten senseless by an obese stripper and entangled with a woman who craves either sex or Milk Duds, whichever is available first. It's all highly implausible, but with the breakneck pace, wacky cast and laugh-out-loud dialogue, that hardly matters. (Aug.)