"I'm sure you're wondering what a nice girl like me was doing left for dead in the trunk of a piece of shit Honda Civic out in the industrial wasteland east of downtown Los Angeles. Or maybe we've met before and you're wondering why it hadn't happened sooner."The only way to describe Money Shot, Christa Faust's debut for the Hard Case Crime line, is brutal. Everything about this story is brutal. It's like Death Wish with a pair of boobs.
Angel Dare made a name for herself in porn, but was smart enough to not do drugs and get out before, in her words, her "p*ssy turned back into a pumpkin." She now runs Daring Angels, a talent agency of sorts for female porn stars, and has a good life. Then one day she gets a call from old friend, and porn director, Sam Hammer. Sam is in a jam, and needs a hottie to do some screen time with hot, young stud Jesse Black. Angel agrees, in part because she adores Sam, but also because she's got a girl hard-on for Jesse. But once she arrives on set, it all goes downhill quickly. Beaten, raped, shot and left for dead in the trunk of the Civic, all because of some underfed Romanian girl who walked into her office earlier that day carrying a briefcase full of money.
This is a revenge story, pure and simple. It's also compulsively readable because, as a writer, Faust has no sacred cows. Besides the dynamite first person narration, and the eye to detail, there are enough dead bodies in this book to make Hannibal Lecter choke. Angel has every reason to be pissed off, and shows a lot of gumption (her escape from the trunk of the car is great), but the long and the short of it is she's a killer. She shoots people. In cold blood. Not without cause mind you, and there is a certain amount of justice to it, but I'm not sure she'd rate terribly high on the Likability Scale. She works for me, but I can see her not working for some readers (oh, like say, 90% of my blog reading audience).
My only quibble with this story is The Man. No, not The Man, but Lalo Malloy. A former LAPD officer, he now works security for Daring Angels. This is all about my personal expectations, but I would have much rather had Angel carry this tale by herself. I can't entirely fault the poor girl. Once she escapes that trunk, she has to call somebody (who knew there were still pay phones in L.A.?) and Malloy is it. But instead of him riding off into the sunset, he rides shotgun for the bulk of the story. Basically I just didn't think Angel needed a man along for the ride. In the end, she handles it her way, but for a while I was kind of annoyed by his presence. I don't know. Maybe the feminist in me just wanted to have Angel do all the ass kicking.
I thought this was a crackerjack book, and it will be interesting to see how it fairs. Will it appeal to men? Will it appeal to women? Will it appeal to anybody who isn't bitter? Who knows? But I thought it was raw and gripping. Sure it holds true a lot of the conventions of the pulp crime noir genre, but dropping in a female lead (a pissed off one at that) is inspired. If you want different, look no further.
Final Grade = B+
Note: This book goes on sale January 29.