Hard Case Crime launched these two titles a couple of years back: unlike the recent lamentable effort from Stephen King, Christa Faust‘s two novels offer text book examples of the sub-genre and deserve the slickly sexy retro covers. These are brutal noirish tales of murder and revenge that will grab you by the throat, shake loose every screw and leave you crumpled by the side of the road.
Money Shot kicks off the adventures of Angel Dare, former adult film star, now running an agency to help young women joining the industry avoid some of the mistakes she made herself. Angel’s feeling her fortieth year with a little self-pity, so she’s flattered to be invited to return to film with up and comer Jesse Black. Instead of an ego boost, she winds up left for dead in the trunk of a Civic. Too stubborn to die, Angel crawls away from the grim reaper and starts piecing together what happened — and how to nail the bastards who did it. A heady mix of San Fernando’s porn world, human trafficking and good old-fashioned double cross, Money Shot keeps the surprises coming and the twists gut-wrenching.
Choke Hold picks up not long after Money Shot ends, timewise it’s maybe less than a year. It’s not been easy time, though. Angel Dare has been in and out of the Witness Protection program. While there are some flashbacks to fill in what’s happened in the meantime, the one thing you’ll notice about this book is the pace. You know how people say things like “thrill ride” and “rollercoaster” and usually you just yawn? If Money Shot was a wild race, Choke Hold is desperate dash through a war torn bomb corridor. It simply doesn’t let up for more than a breath now and then. And it’s so noir you could black your shoes with it. Hope you never meet Angel Dare, because you’re not too likely to survive it. When I finished this book — and believe me, I barely put it down once I picked it up — I went back and re-read quite a bit of it, picking apart just how Faust did what she did. Superb stuff.