Author Joe R. Lansdale does an excellent job of keeping the reader off-balance, tilting the story, or the characters, just enough to shake things up when the reader might otherwise start to settle in. And the further we go, the scarier and eerier it gets and there is the very real possibility that Dane will not get out of this.
Lansdale writes very real people. Everyone here, even those who have such a small appearance in the book, appear to be real people and not just a name. Richard Dane is us. He is ‘Everyman.’ He is also, clearly, the lynchpin which holds this story together. Those around him, his family, Ben Russel, and private investigator Jim Bob Luke (one of the most colorful characters I’ve read in a long time) pull Dane in different directions, creating complications to his otherwise routine (and safe) life.
This book is hard-boiled crime fiction. It is pulp fiction. Both terms often have a negative connotation to those who aren’t familiar with the genres, but this is crime fiction/pulp fiction at its best. It is dark, it is dangerous, it is wickedly humorous, and it is a good read.
So why not five stars? Because for me, there was one issue that I couldn’t get over. Dane makes a decision…one decision…that really puts him over the edge. And while Lansdale does everything possible to set this up and explain Dane’s motives for the decision, I don’t quite buy in to it. I accept it for the sake of the story, but it doesn’t quite ring true and spoils the results for me.
Fortunately, Lansdale writes so incredibly well that we can forgive the moment and keep ourselves wrapped up in the gritty story.
Looking for a good book? Cold in July is a great read (or even re-read) for anyone who loves hard-boiled, dark mysteries, crime fiction or pulp fiction. It’s a great summer read.
To read the rest of Daniel’s review, visit Looking For A Good Book.
For more info on Cold in July, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story.