November 22, 2013

An Affair to Dismember: a review of Tobin Elliott's "Soft Kiss, Hard Death"

Soft Kiss, Hard Death (Sam Truman Mystery #3)

by Tobin Elliott

Abattoir Press (2012)

73 pages


A guy walks into a bar and sees a pretty gal. The two hit it off, and before he knows it she's in his car steaming up the windows--and then she's dead and he's got a belly full of demon worm. You know ... that old story.

Sam Truman, the ever-broke private eye, has another case--and a tab at his favorite diner that's been paid in full. Will wonders never cease? Sam's new client is a young man with more than a hangover and the usual regrets that come from a one-night stand. After meeting an unusually beautiful woman in a dive of a bar, he takes her out to his car and they start making out. He thought he was going to get back to his apartment for some late night action, but before he could even start the car, something crawls out from the woman's mouth and into his. Now she's dead and he has what used to be her tongue writhing around in his belly--at least until it finds a way out in gruesomely painful and scarring fashion. Using a condom would most assuredly not helped that young man out. At all.

I don't know if this whole tongue slug thing was Tobin Elliott's invention or someone else's associated with the Sam Truman series, but hats off for a spectacularly gross idea. Where the idea tripped up in my view though, is that Soft Kiss, Hard Death didn't really hold a whole lot of mystery. Maybe I've seen and read too much scifi, but when the doppelganger showed up I knew exactly how that was going to play out. At least the action, snappy dialogue, and key suspense scenes pulled through for an enjoyable episode. Looking back, I'm not sure how the story could have been altered to up the mystery without throwing a wrench in the overall plot, but I like to think it would have helped.

All in all, it's a fun blend of gumshoe and gore. For a series with the words, Sam Truman Mystery, it shows even two out of three ain't bad.

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