One of the masters of hardboiled modern noir, Ken Bruen (The Guards, The Dramatist and Vixen and co-author of the wildly popular Bust) opens his American Skin explosively as Glen, his wife, and his two kids, Ben and Rosie, are doing over one hundred miles per hour in an effort to escape from “Dade.” But the thrilling chase ends in disaster as Glen wraps his SUV around a tree and Dade finishes off the rest of the family himself.
Quite the opening chapter to get things going. But things slow down a pitch as you get to know the characters involved: Stephen Blake; his girlfriend, Siobhan Keane; their best friend, Tommy; John A. Stapleton; and of course the bad-ass mutha-trucka Dade.
You can call it the fascination with the American dream, but running away from it all with a wad of cash could be just about anyone’s fantasy. Stephen Blake is in fact on the run with his girlfriend, Siobhan, after pulling off a bank heist and is attempting to shed his Irish image, accent and all, in an effort to pass for American so he can remake his life. Meanwhile, IRA hit man John Stapleton isn’t satisfied with his cut of the pie, and Dade is on a rampage in the Southwest. All of these characters are doomed, on a collision course to meet with each other between the bars of New York City and the desert of Arizona.
There is much to say for Bruen’s style, but in particular he shifts between characters effortlessly. The prose is crisp with the usual pop culture references, and American Skin bristles with the raw energy you’d expect from Bruen. It is very hardboiled, so fans of Bruen or modern-noir will not be disappointed. Clocking in at three hundred and one pages, it just might be the kind of book you pick up and read from beginning to end in one sitting. Overall, American Skin is a top-notch hardboiled/ noir read that leaves you clamoring for more.