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by David Gordon
Mysterious Press, August 2018
229 pages
ISBN: 0802128009

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

If you are anything like me, a hot summer's day cries out not for Nordic chill or an intricate psychological suspense thriller, especially if either runs to more than 400 pages, but for something, briefer, snappier, and wittier. And if that sounds good, David Gordon's THE BOUNCER wins on all counts.

Joe Brody, the bouncer in question, was tossed out of Harvard, had a brief but unforgettable career as a military sniper, suffers from nightmares about a very bad day in combat, reads Dostoevsky when the strip club is quiet and is one hell of a bouncer when it isn't, despite being "tall, lean, scruffy, and a white guy." He has the sensibility of a 1940s noir PI but it's frequently tried by the sheer intractability of contemporary existence, which guarantees that if something can go wrong, there is little chance that it won't.

Joe is, however, by no means on the side of law and order. His best friend is head of a mafia family, and this connection does involve Joe in the complicated world of the various ethnic gangs of New York. Gio incidentally harbours a secret need to dress in women's clothes from time to time and seek gratifying chastisement when he does. This is a side to his life he has no intention of sharing with anyone. But when a city-wide crackdown on suspected terrorists starts affecting his various enterprises, Gio invents a surprising strategy - he offers to cooperate with the FBI in ratting out terrorists when they come to the attention of a united underworld, in exchange for being let alone with business as usual.

But before this sweet deal can actually take hold, Joe, bouncer in one of Gio's clubs, is busted and involved in a not absolutely clear plan to hijack a gun show and make off with the arms. Nothing goes as it should and Joe becomes more and more deeply implicated in an even more incomprehensible plot to steal a million-dollar vial of perfume. (Don't ask.) This caper in the end involves the Triads, the CIA, every significant mob in New York of every ethnic connection and is a marvellous thing to behold. As well, it features a strikingly unconventional distribution of tasks as far as gender is concerned. It also, and not incidentally, involves an act of terrorism of spectacular proportions.

David Gordon writes crisp, effective prose and clearly knows his genres well enough to respect them and to give them a bit of a twist. THE BOUNCER is the first of what should become a series. Along the way, Joe runs across FBI agent Donna Zamora. Sparks, as they say, do flash between them, but, so far at least, no flames, a circumstance that provides hope for a sequel. That's one I'd just as soon not have to wait until next August to read.

Yvonne Klein is a writer, translator, and retired college English professor who lives in Montreal. She's been editing RTE since 2008.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, August 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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