Blake Crouch reviews Johnny Shaw’s new crime humor novel Big Maria
For me, there are several variations on the "amazing reading experience."
- When you can't put a book down due to perfect plotting.
- When you find yourself caring deeply about its characters.
- When those characters are people who in real life you would shudder to have as neighbors and yet you still care.
- And this is truly the rarest of all and nothing short of an absolute gift. When every few pages you stumble across a one-liner that makes you smile, laugh, shake your head, and wonder just how long this writer can sustain this lovely train of thought.
Such is the wonder of Big Maria
, the second novel, following Dove Season
, by Johnny Shaw, which somehow manages to achieve all of the above and more... Read the rest of this review at www.kindlepost.com
Shaw is back with another crazy “buddy picture” of a caper novel (following Dove Season
, 2011), this one
featuring three engaging losers who band together for a Treasure of the Sierre Madre
–like search for an
abandoned gold mine. Fortunately, our gang of bumblers is a bit less greedy than Fred C. Dobbs and
associates, but the job they’ve set for themselves is a lot more demanding: first, they must find the treasure
map buried under a house that is itself residing at the bottom of a lake; then it’s a simple matter of
trespassing on federal land being used as a test-bombing site and climbing a mountain while dodging
artillery and skipping through a minefield. It doesn’t help that our heroes are, respectively, a drunk named
Schmidttberger (guess what his nickname is) with a broken leg; another drunk, this one a foolish optimist
with an atrophied arm; and a senior citizen suffering from cancer and a heart condition. The comedy is low
but hilarious and often tinged with violence (“Everything got a lot more confusing after the burro
exploded”), but the emotion is real and often heartrending. Shaw somehow manages to drag you into his
mix of absurdity, mayhem, and pathos against all your better instincts. You really shouldn’t be liking this
book so much, you tell yourself before peeling off another 50 pages to see what explodes next and whether
our guys get home safely. Comic thrillerdom has a new star.
— Bill Ott