Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Friday, October 17, 2008

Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption

Capital Crime Press, 2008, 978-0-9799960-2-3, 287 p.

Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption takes place in May, 1957, about eight months after the events in Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues. The previous Baby Shark novels are reviewed earlier.

Kristin Van Dijk (aka Baby Shark) and her partner, Otis Millett, are hired by Texas businessman Travis Horner to act as bagmen, exchanging a bag of money for his girlfriend Savannah who hasn't exactly been kidnapped but is held against her will in Oklahoma.

What should have been a straightforward exchange takes an unexpected turn when Kristin arrives late at the exchange point to find Otis being beaten by three men. Kristin rescues Otis in her usual direct fashion only to have someone else appear and take Savannah away from them.

On the way back to Texas, Kirsten sees the car Savannah and the stranger took off in, driven off the road and two other men trying to force Savannah into their car. The stranger has been shot to death. Violence ensues and Savannah is rescued again. Otis and Kristin learn that the man who took Savannah the first time is actually a relative, Lester.

Otis and Kristin still have no idea what is going on but feel that Horner must have been behind it. Instead of returning Savannah to Horner, they take her to her family headed by Oklahoma bootlegger Bull Smike. Alliances are formed and Otis and Kristen work at figuring out what is really at stake.

The story is told in first person by Kristin. She's young, in her twenties, living in Texas in the 1950s where she runs counter to the usual roles expected for women. A female private detective is not what people expect when they come to the Millet Agency. Kristin is from the same mold as Mike Hammer - she has a cold calculating courage, the ability to act quickly and violently and frequently fatally, and sees no problem delivering extra-legal justice. She isn't someone you want to cross. She is also extremely loyal to the few people she lets into her life.

The Baby Shark books fall into the hard-boiled genre of detective fiction. As such, you can expect tough characters, action, and violence. Within the framework of the hard-boiled genre, Fate has well developed, intriguing characters, good plots that pull the reader along, and excellent action. They are a great way to spend a couple of hours, lost in a story.

Fate is often asked why he set these book in the 1950s. He explains
My novel begins in the 1950s because I wanted my young female protagonist challenged by a world formed by late nineteenth and early twentieth century attitudes toward women that Rosie the Riveter had just knocked silly. Women of the Eisenhower era were much more restless than Ozzie & Harriet would have had people believe, and I wanted to tap into that with a strong, young female protagonist who could represent that unconventional spirit.

He succeeds in his portrayal of Kristin and Baby Shark, Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues, and Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption all get a hard-boiled thumbs up from me.