by Max Allan Collins
narrated by Dan John Miller
Audible, Inc. (2014)
Hard Case Crime
I've never read a Quarry novel before, let alone listened to one, but I've heard more than enough praise for Collins' work that I didn't hesitate in downloading a review copy of The Wrong Quarry.
For the uninitiated like me, here's the catch-up: John Quarry is a Vietnam vet turned hitman, now making a living taking out other hitmen after a falling out with his former employer, the Broker. He has his own code to live by with little to no compunction when it comes to killing or fornicating. If he has you in his sights, he's either going to blow your brains out or f**k your brains out. I guess it all depends on who's wearing the skirt, in Quarry's eyes.
His latest job has him meeting up with an effeminate dance instructor based in Missouri named Vale. Vale is frightened someone in town has put a hit on him following the disappearance of one of his star pupils, Candy Stockwell. It doesn't take long for Quarry to suspect the wealthy Stockwell clan may be the ones responsible, but things get complicated when he hooks up with Candy's aunt, Jenny. Jenny, in between carnal distractions with Quarry, insists her family had nothing to do with any proposed hit, but Quarry can't help but be suspicious of the rich, old curmudgeon that is Jenny's father and Candy's grandfather, a gruff octogenarian whose aggressiveness belies his age. Then there's Candy's best friend, Sally Meadows, who might be even more tightly wrapped trouble for Quarry when he starts snooping around town for answers.
If hard-boiled P.I. fiction is what you want, this book delivers with all the attitude you'd expect for a war-weary gunman. Sardonic wit with a forever-young outlook on life in general, not to mention every woman he meets, Quarry is certainly an entertaining character, even when he isn't the most likable. And while parts of the story had characters looking like they'd been plumbed from the trashiest dimestore novels, Collins works hard to give them all an organic appeal to defy any attempts to dismiss them as cardboard. Plus, Dan John Miller does one heckuva job in capturing Quarry's voice throughout the novel. And, heck, even his voice work for the female characters is entertaining in its own right.
I have the first Quarry novel sitting on my Kindle. It was a 99-cent, on-sale impulse buy at the time, but I'll definitely be reading it and more from the Quarry series after being so thoroughly impressed by this atmospheric pulpfest.