Monday, July 1, 2013

Raylan 04: Raylan (Elmore Leonard)

Rating: 5
Year: 2011
Genre: Crime
Read again? Yes.

Raylan's got a warrant for Angel Arenas, a marijuana dealer. He finds Angel in a hotel bathtub full of ice water, near death, and shy a pair of kidneys.

Once he gets Angel to talk, Raylan learns that the dealer was meeting with a couple of men. He figures the guys drugged their mark, cut him open, nipped the kidneys. But Angel refuses to ID them.

Doctors at the hospital say the job looks professional. The incisions were stapled up.

The kidney-nappers send their victim a fax: $100,000 to get his guts back. As a show of good faith they've taken the liberty of dropping the purloined  pieces at Angel's hospital, ready to reinstall.

But if he doesn't produce the cash, they'll repossess them. Angel has one week.

The plot breaks up into several threads from here: the hunt for the pair of small-timers who waylaid Angel; a young woman who's insanely good at poker and who might be part of a trio of drug addicts who rob banks; and the people running the kidney-theft ring. Harlan County is very busy.

A lot of this book has made its way into the TV series "Justified," but not quite as-written. The kidney-theft and bank robber arcs are part of the show's third season and get tweaked to fit the show's plotline. It's got me wondering whether the poker champ will show up for the 5th season.

Good book, more meaty and satisfying than "Fire in the Hole."

Raylan 03: Fire in the Hole (Elmore Leonard)

Rating: 4/5
Year: 2002
Genre: Crime
Read again? Yes

Deputy U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens has been reassigned to Harlan County, Kentucky in the wake of a shoot-out with a mobster. To be fair, Raylan did give the guy 24 hours to get out of town or get shot. Guy didn't leave.

It was simpler to just shuffle Raylan out of sight than to try to build a case against him.

This being Raylan Givens, he's not even settled in before the trouble starts. His old schoolmate Boyd Crowder has started up a white supremacist church, mostly as a criminal enterprise: bomb goes off in a Black neighborhood, cops rush to the scene, and Boyd's boys rob a bank or two elsewhere while the cops are busy.

Meanwhile, the recently-widowed Ava Crowder shows an interest in Raylan now that her abusive husband is out of the picture.

This novella is the basis for the TV show "Justified"; I haven't seen much of the show's first season, so I don't know how well they fit together. The book's a very quick read, but there are no real surprises. By the halfway point the ending is obvious, but Raylan's got so many awesome one-liners in his dealings with the bad guys that it doesn't matter. I would have liked a longer story with more of a challenge for Raylan.