Archive for category John Shannon

John Shannon 2: The Cracked Earth

In my review of The Concrete River, John Shannon‘s debut novel, I used the word “zany” to describe the characters in that book. In The Cracked Earth, Shannon’s second novel, we are once again treated to some rather odd characters, but this time it was the plot — in particular, the ending — that proved to be zany. Missing child detective Jack Liffey is hired to find the daughter of Lori Bright, a sex-starved 1960s movie starlet who still longs for the spotlight. Liffey’s search takes him across Los Angeles where he avoids both earthquakes and a Jamaican hit man whose accent is so thick, it’s unintelligible even in print. Liffey finds the runaway without too much trouble, but gets in the middle of a feud between rival video game companies. And that’s pretty much it, except for the ending, which features a bunch of cracked earth in the City of Angels. Personally, when I read a mystery novel, I’m not in the mood for a natural disaster and characters trying to survive it. There were numerous explanations of how each city block looked afterward, but after a while, it just got to be too much and I was relieved when I finally got to the end of the book. Part of me likes Shannon’s wacky — and possibly whacked out — writing style, but the other part of me only puts up with this type of thing when the author is Hunter S. Thompson.

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John Shannon 1: The Concrete River

In The Concrete River, author John Shannon introduces us to an atypical gumshoe, who specializes in finding missing children. In typical detective fashion, Jack Liffey is divorced, has a child and is behind on his child support payments. He is also a Vietnam vet, who had a real job before his current gig. Set in Los Angeles, the grandmother of one of the children Jack found several years earlier asks him to look into the disappearance of the child’s mother. When the woman is found dead, Liffey becomes a “full-fledged” detective and has run-ins with some unsavory characters on both sides of the law. Similar to a Carl Hiaasen novel, the book features some zany characters. In one scene, a midget and a very skinny guy trade jokes in a bar. Of course, when the midget makes a Nietzche reference — which goes over my head — I start to wonder if I’m enough of an intellectual to read this book. I was also taken back a bit by Liffey’s romantic interludes with two middle-aged women — one with humongous breasts and one who is a virgin. As the first novel in the series, the book was a bit rough in places and I even found a typo. But I liked the Jack Liffey character and there were interesting supporting characters in addition to the aforementioned zany characters. The story wasn’t the most imaginative nor did it feature a huge plot twist, but things tied up nicely at the end. And it was entertaining enough that I’ll keep reading.

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