Thursday, September 22, 2011
Choke Hold by Christa Faust
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
You look at the cover and you see a sexy woman, a pretty face. You make judgments as to the depths of character. And you're wrong, because this girl has heart that pounds harder than a prizefighter's. I jumped into Angel Dare's story in the second entry, and you can easily follow her violent past if you haven't yet read Money Shot, the first one. Angel has done terrible things in the name of justice, and none of it has been clean. It's left her a wounded animal tracked by vicious predators. She's hiding out under a grease stain in the desert waiting tables when she meets an old friend, and gets thrown into a new kind of hell as he brings his son Cody and plenty of trouble with him. A mixed martial arts fighter tangled up in steroid trafficking, young Cody leads her to Hank, a veteran fighter who's broken inside and out, trying to make right for past wrongs.
It flies like classic pulp, it reads like truth and it hits you with a smart left hook that leaves you as stunned as a fighter wobbling through his first standing eight-count. There are no slick twists, only artfully written characters, broken down gladiators from the sex and violence trades who've battled for our entertainment. They are writ large but speak to a deeper truth. Angel's battle is far from over, and she faces the brutal ugly heart behind the sex and fights we watch for our amusement. Except her heart's stronger, just strong enough to keep on pumping as she's hunted down and forced to pay for the revenge she enacted.
Like Andrew Vachss, Faust lures you in with a great story and before she tells you secrets you don't want to hear. The end left me drained like I'd fought five hard rounds with Hank the Hammer. It's a hell of a book and you'll never look at mixed martial arts the same way again.
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