on July 25, 2002
There is a long standing tradition joining Detective stories with the supernatural or involving a science fiction twist. Clive Barker, Phillip K. Dick and Arthur Conan Doyle have dipped their literary toes into this particular pool with fantastic results. Brian Hopkins has added another quality, fast paced volume to the sub-genre with The Licking Valley Coon Hunter's Club.
The hero, Martin Zolotow, joins his predecessors with a few interesting twists of his own. He suffers from a unique malady that can cause bouts of memory loss. It's not the focal point of the story, as is Leonard's little memory quirk in Momento, but it does provide an interesting trait to the character. This little complication explains how his mind is able to make some bizarre connections between pieces of evidence and gives him an excuse to pepper in bits of obscure literary references, poetry and Shakespeare. (Zolotowmemorized bits of prose to train his recollection as a child).
Unfortunately, this same interesting quirk also serves the authors inclusion of several distracting flashbacks of the hero in therapy with the one woman that he seems unattracted to. While these vignettes from his recent past are interesting and do add quite a lot to Zolotow's depth of character, the structure removes the reader from the action and breaks the pace of the story. I wouldn't want to see them removed so much as condensed and possibly included as a prologue or serving as the opening chapter. This however, is the one minor misstep in an otherwise cracking good novel.
The pace is incredibly fast and the action virtually nonstop. The villains are properly menacing and sinister with loads of interesting little eccentricities of their own. Not only that, but there were plenty of them. Every character, save our hero, a misplaced grad-student and a group of kidnapped prostitutes, wears a figurative black hat. Zolotow was really up against the wall in this one.
Licking Valley is a nice, quick read that will leave you wanting more. Hopefully the subtitle- "A Martin Zolotow Mystery" is indicative of the fact that there will be more adventures of my favorite, brain damaged detective forthcoming.