A title like this can be a bait & switch, like Canadian wacko poet Crad Kilodney's "Lightning Struck My Dick," which never mentions the calamity of its name. McBride delivers the goods. See, Frank Sinatra is Nick Valentine's little Yorkie. Nick's a professional drunkard and part time P.I. assisting the St. Louis PD. A "Bad Lieutenant" with a moral compass driving him to true north, even if it means plowing a garbage truck through a brewery.
A bank job goes wrong, his father's friend the Chief of Police asks him to put his ear to the street, and of course, he gets tangled up with some very unsavory local thugs. Some of whom are the closest he's got to best friends. McBride paints his colorful characters, even an ex-Amish detective, in moral shades of gray. Their motives are unquestionable, purely driven by character and human nature. It is a brutal story. Brutally violent in places, and brutally funny in others. English Sid and No-Nuts are two of the greatest villains I've read in a long while, and Nick's only superpower is his mighty tolerance for alcohol, and his proclivity for inserting violence in the uncomfortable pauses where normal people are thinking about the consequences.
I used to love P.I. novels, and I still read the best, like Lawrence Block. But McBride, like Josh Stallings, has breathed new life into the genre for me with believable street people like Nick, a likeable anti-hero straight out of Bukowski, with a shotgun and a chainsaw in his trunk, a la Army of Darkness. But back to the title. The pure brilliance of it. As soon as we know the cantankerous little Yorkie's name, we know what's coming. Will he chop, puree or liquefy?
You'll have to read it to find out. This is no nihilist noir tract. It has heart.
And Nick will be your Valentine, for ten scotch, ten bourbon, and ten beers.
© 2011 Thomas Pluck