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Choke Hold (Angel Dare) Paperback – October 4, 2011
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“The sex industry, bodybuilding drugs, and basic revenge make for a potent cocktail in this eye-popping follow-up to Faust’s Edgar Award nominee. She’s Hard Case Crime’s only female author, and her tough heroine is a welcome addition to the gritty pulp tradition. Snap it up...” - Library Journal
"Faust’s explosive, bullet-dodging sequel to Money Shot... a far superior wrapup to the action, noir as bleak as you’ll find this year." - Publisher’s Weekly
"She’ll get you turning pages faster than a wrestler on ‘roids." - Bizarre Magazine
"A sexy and violent thriller..." - Suicide Girls
"Faust’s tough gal heroine and punchy way of delivering her violent plot quickly grabbed this reader." - Blog Critics
The First Lady [of Hard Case Crime] is certainly earning her stars and stripes in the crime fiction world. - We Love This Book
An astounding novel... funny, heartbreaking, violent and sexy, Choke Hold has everything you’d wish for in a thriller. - Guilty Conscience Review
About the Author
Christa Faust is a successful horror and crime writer. Her most recent novelMoney Shot for Hard Case Crime won the Crimespree Award and was nominated for several others, including the prestigious Edgar Award.
She has written tie-ins to Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and theTwilight Zone amongst others. She lives in Los Angeles, California, and loves vintage shoes and noir cinema.
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Money Shot was a lot of dark, bloody noir fun in the tradition of Clint Eastwood’s classic movie Hang Em High—a former porn star Angel Dare was raped and left for dead in the trunk of a car, only to escape and then proceed to wreak vengeance on her attackers. This first book was classic pulp fiction. It gave readers a titillating glimpse into the seedy world of the porn industry; it delivered a blood-soaked revenge thriller; and it even managed to end on a note of redemption as Angel thwarted a group a Easter European mobsters involved in sex trafficking underage girls. It was unique from other pulp novels only in that it featured a sex-fueled female protagonist rather than the traditional male detective.
Choke Hold is in a weird way both a deeper literary novel and more realistic. The novel opens after Angel Dare has fled the Witness Protection Program when her cover got blown. She sees an ex-boyfriend murdered and then takes his teenage son under her wing to try to protect him. At first, it seems like it’s just another thriller—The Amazing Further Adventures of Angel Dare—but that would be too simple. For one thing, the events of the first novel are not just backstory. The Eastern European villains eventually reappear, and decisions Angel made come back to haunt her in unexpected ways.
Secondly, in this outing, Angel makes decisions that are hard to accept. While her sexual adventurism in the first novel was “all in good fun”, this time out we find her exchanging sex in return for favors, a form of currency that sure seems a lot like prostitution. She falls for a punch-drunk MMA fighter, Hank, who we come to learn has a history of abusing women. By the end, she is engaging in heart-wrenching activities of degradation out of pure desperation. It’s ironic that both she and Hank are alike in one important way—they both use their bodies as a means of getting what they want, and they both pay a high price for those decisions.
I won’t spoil the finale, but this is not the sort of book that goes for happy endings. In fact, I cannot recall a more tragic, bloody, or depressing ending to any novel I have read in recent memory. I have to give the author credit for not pulling her punches and allowing events to play out in the most realistic fashion.
I hope there is a another novel in the works to round out an Angel Dare trilogy…
In both cases (and both Angel Dare novels), I have to wonder if major changes weren't mandated to leave things open for another sequel. Or...maybe Christa Faust just sucks at writing good endings. I could speculate why or be more specific, but I don't want to give too many spoilers. I wouldn't want to be a sympathetic male character in any of her books, that's for sure.
Let's just say the endings of both books lack gravitas or real narrative satisfaction. The ending of "Choke Hold" is even less satisfying than the end of "Money Shot" (the first Angel Dare novel). I had high hopes for the sequel, which were not realized. There is plenty of violence and a little bit of sex, however, if that's all you are looking for.
But let's backtrack. "Choke Hold" is the MMA fighter-focused sequel to "Money Shot." It looked like Angel Dare was headed for life in prison at the end of "Money Shot." Yet in "Choke Hold," she's a fugitive on the run from the men she testified against. Apparently, her Federal Witness Protection program stint went very much awry. And, by sheer coincidence, she finds herself embroiled in a conspiracy surrounding two very different MMA fighters--one of whom is the son of Angel's ex.
The author sets up lots of expectations in the reader about possible plotlines...and then takes a wrecking ball to all of them. This may have been intended to be daring or bold or avant-garde or some kind of feminist statement, but it just comes off as sloppy and careless writing. Either the book needed to be finished in a hurry or a lot of last-minute changes were required...or the author just takes perverse pleasure in frustrating the reader.
Vengeful Angel Dare was much more interesting than Fugitive Angel Dare. Sad, but true.
The author does make these emotionally and physically damaged MMA fighters somewhat compelling, even though I have no interest in MMA fighting whatsoever. While a female author's perspective was a boon in "Money Shot," which focused on the porn industry, that same perspective seems much less at home in the macho overload MMA world.
Unfortunately, "Choke Hold" is a lackluster sequel that provides much of the same types of action and plot as in the first novel. Only the faces and locations change. I devoured the book quickly, but I was very disappointed by the lackluster ending.