Manistique by Craig Terlson
Perhaps a little noirish detective fiction might give a person relief from the blazing summer sun? If a cool read with a few nostalgic nods to the greats of the genre is up your alley then Manistique is for you.
Manistique is the second book in Terlson’s Luke Fischer series (no need to read the first first, unless you’re the kind who must). Luke, finder of lost souls and more than a few dead bodies, doesn’t call himself a detective, but he does have a knack for finding himself on a quest for the missing. Everyone needs a little jingle in his pocket for Pacifico beer, right? This time, Luke goes on an errand for a friend, Franko, to find a woman, a favor which fast turns into a back room poker game and a gunfight. When the woman ends up dead and Franko wounded, our knight errant goes in search of answers all the way to the rain sodden Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Along the way, he teams up with a local sheriff, Sam, a woman with a powerful roundhouse kick and a past of her own, and, together they take on a band of killers to whom money is king and life is cheap. Wh
en the trail leads the duo to the southwest, painted pitch perfect by Terlson, Luke may be out of the rain and closer to his beloved Puerto Vallarta, but he’s also tempting a fate like Franko’s. When things start to sizzle like an egg on the New Mexican blacktop and the bullets start to fly, Luke and Sam must decide who’s good and who’s bad and how they will survive the forces closing in from all sides.
To be successful, authors must know their genre which means observing the associated tropes as well as reader expectations. Terlson does both in his second foray into detective fiction, but without the story turning predictable. Moreover, Manistique has both the shady atmosphere and even shadier characterization reminiscent of classic noir which is hard to pull off without sounding derivative. The dialogue is sharp and, often, hilarious, which serves to counterbalance an ample serving of violence.
Manistique is chock full of bad guys you can hate, but love too, and a protagonist you can’t help but follow even though there are moments when you may ask yourself why he just doesn’t stay home and have another Pacifico. Thankfully, Luke sticks his nose in where it doesn’t belong, and takes us along for the bumpy ride. Oh Luke. What will you get up to next? You hapless hero, you. I have a feeling readers are going to want to know. And soon.