Joe R. Lansdale,
Leather Maiden
(Knopf, 2008)

After watching the movie Cold in July, which was based on a novel by Joe R. Lansdale, I figured that if the movie was this good, then the writer and his novels must be even better. While I haven't read Cold in July yet, I picked up this gem in a bookstore for four bucks, and it was worth that and more. Coming into this book, I was in a bit of a slump, nothing I'd read had interested me enough to be an actual page-turner but this book changed that. I was consistently drawn to the book, and couldn't stop reading it. It starts off a little bit like a bad Chuck Palahniuk book, vulgar and written as though he is talking to a friend, but quickly becomes its own book.

The book is about Gulf War veteran and Pulitzer-nominated journalist Cason Statler coming back to his hometown to get his mind healthier. After a harsh break-up and a devastating war, he is not in a good place. But coming back home to Camp Rapture does anything but help him get back to normal. His ex-girlfriend who he casually stalks lives there, and her presence causes him to self-pityingly embark on constant nights of drinking. That is until he comes across the case of a college-girl who has gone missing. She was a great student, never in trouble, and seemingly a great person. Key word seemingly, nothing in this story is what it seems, and there are enough realistic twists to keep you turning the pages.

The mystery is very interesting and while it isn't the most original story, it is written with such originality that you can almost forget that. Along with Lansdale's unique writing style, this book is full of twists, as a mystery novel should be. However, this book forces you to care about the mystery, and in this way, it is very successful. This book is vulgar and it can be graphic, but it isn't enough so that a person should be warned before reading it.

The characters are pretty well-written and interesting, but I can't help but feel as though they could be in a different novel under a different name, cut and paste characters. There is Booger, Cason's old friend from the war, who never really wanted to leave the carnage. He is crazy, unpredictable and gung-ho, but I feel like the crazy best friend trope has been done to death, and this story doesn't add much to that. The main character also isn't anything to write home about, just a basic protagonist with a troubled past who drinks too much and forgets too little. While you can relate to him and like him, looking back, he still just feels like a stock character.

While the characters aren't the most unique ones I've read, the book has enough to keep it going.

The mystery is very well written, unpredictable and will keep you turning the pages. This novel is one of my favorite mysteries, and I would recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind a little vulgarity with their prose.

book review by
Vlady Kozubnyak

1 November 2014

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