cover image Riding the Rap

Riding the Rap

Elmore Leonard, Mel Foster. Delacorte Press, $22.95 (294pp) ISBN 978-0-385-30847-2

Simple scams usually turn complex in Leonard land, where the author can doubtless choreograph his scammers' moves in his sleep by now; indeed, much of Rap appears to be riding on automatic pilot. Nevertheless, even middling Leonard is as good as anyone else gets on a good day. This darkly witty page-turner returns to the vexed, triangular relationship of Florida marshal Raylan Givens, his girlfriend, Joyce, and her ex-lover, the aging bookie Harry Arno (all seen previously in Pronto). When Harry disappears while chasing down a tardy debtor named Chip Ganz, Joyce admonishes Raylan to investigate. It turns out Chip is a middle-aged pothead living in his mother's seedy beach mansion, whose stoned analysis of televised hostage situations has fueled a baroque kidnapping scheme, into which Harry has stumbled. Like many a Leonard bad guy, Ganz only talks a good game. It falls upon an ex-con and his preening psychotic cohort to execute the caper, with help from an alluring psychic. Raylan's probe takes him into a shadowy New Age subculture of Tarot readings and Hugger conventions, which Leonard limns with characteristic grit and black humor. Ultimately, however, the story lacks the high voltage of Leonard's best work. (May)