Sunday, December 29, 2013
The Wrong Quarry Max Allan Collins
I've been reading Quarry novels since the early 1970s when they first appeared and I haven't read a bad one yet. Max Allan Collins has created a protagonist and a milieu that he has mastered. And unlike most series this one gets better as it ages.
At this point in his career--and it is a career make no mistake--Quarry now kills killers who've been hired to murder Quarry's clients. Approach a client, convince him he's in mortal danger and bingo you're on the payroll.
This is a particularly rich episode because of the detail Collins brings to the worlds of antiques and beauty pageants. The antique dealer and his partner are the killers and the beauty pageant maestro is a small town dance school instructor. Some years ago said instructor being suspected of murdering an heiress who also happened to be in one of his pageants. Quarry hires on to protect him.
I hate throwing in that overused (and often pretentious) word "subtext" but after all these Quarry books I've come to realize that for all his murderous ways and sexual conquests he is never in danger of becoming a cardboard cut out because Collins, from the git go, has made him an unhappy and restless figure.
In the books where he takes to his Wisconsin eyrie we see Quarry at rest and with something resembling peace of mind. Not only is the sex better here but it often blossoms into a real relationship with Quarry cutting through his own (sometime) psychological confusion and defenses and beginning to love one of his many women. I can't think of another hit man writer who would take a risk like that.
THE WRONG QUARRY is a special treat because Collins gets one of the great grand sociological targets of all time to sack--the beauty pageant. Collins goes after it with machete wit.
Another bonus here is the mystery at the center of the dance instructor's life. The long ago dead heiress. On top of all the excitement, Collins gives the readers an impeccably handled mystery.