Christa Faust,
Choke Hold
(Hard Case, 2011)

Christa Faust's previous Hard Case Crime novel, Money Shot, was nominated for the Edgar Award as best first novel of the year. Now, she has followed it up with a sequel, Choke Hold, which brings back her heroine, Angel Dare, former adult film star who has a knack for getting involved in murders and conspiracies. In this one, she breaks free of her Federal Witness Protection handlers -- she's been in the program since testifying against the mobsters who caused her trouble in Money Shot -- in order to help a former boyfriend. He winds up murdered and she winds up on the run with his son, a budding mixed martial arts fighter on his way to Las Vegas to tryout for a reality TV show, a competition show for MMA fighters.

However, two different sets of killers are on their trail. Neither the kid nor Angel Dare is safe. They are assisted by a washed up MMA fighter, a veteran pug named Hank, who is in love with Angel. The novel is about the chase.

Choke Hold moves fast, erupts into violence frequently, and Angel Dare is certainly an interesting series character. Everything in this novel is hard-boiled, rough and tough: the shootings, the beatings, the sex, the budding relationships -- all of it walks the edge. There's nothing sentimental here and Faust does not believe in having her characters walk off into the sunset. In her novels, no one wins but some people survive.

It's a bleak view of the world but it makes for a pretty powerful novel.

book review by
Michael Scott Cain

8 October 2011

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