Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Catching Up #18: PYRES by Derek Nikitas

So this beast right here, Pyres by Derek Nikitas, could be classified as more of a Crime-Centered-Literary-Thriller than a straight-up noir, but once you get to the last hundred pages, when it is just one awesomely violent action sequence after another, there is no denying that the book deserves to be reviewed on Nerd of Noir. This is tough stuff, dear reader, child-and-pregnant-woman-in-peril-type tough stuff. But there's weird little Nordic trolls and shit in it too so...there's that...

Yeah, you read that right, reader-who-doesn't-trust-his-own-fucking-eyes: there are fucking creatures from Nordic mythology in this book. Weirder than that - it actually worked for me instead of making me want to shoot myself in the face. But I'm getting ahead of myself, getting excited. Let's do that whole plot summary bullshit thing so you can keep the fuck up.

Pyres is set in upstate New York in the earlier nineties, weeks before young Lucia Moberg's sixteenth birthday. Lucia's life seems fairly typical until the day her professor father - who specializes in, you guessed it, Nordic mythology - is shot dead right before her eyes in a mall parking lot.

Greta Hurd, a middle-aged detective for the Rochester PD, takes the case which, you know, eventually gets personal. Hurd's messy personal life - which involves an estranged daughter about to be married to a schlub Greta doesn't approve of - seemingly can be redeemed if she could only figure out this case.

Also thrown into the mix is another woman named Tanya, an extremely pregnant Whiskey Tango (see Generation Kill for an explanation of that reference) girl whose violent boyfriend Mason just got made a member of the Skeleton Crew, a dangerous motorcycle club run by sinister bearded lard-ass Buck Hanson. If you don't think the Skeleton Crew is mixed up somehow in Oscar Moberg's murder, you don't read much.

Pyres is successful in large part due to one of my favorite, sly conventions in crime fiction. It is a very simple story, but because of the way and order information is revealed to the reader, it seems like a very complicated plot (For a great film example of this, see Eastern Promises). The storytelling is so fucking assured, so sly, that what eventually turns out to be a classic crime story seems at first to be ridiculously complex - and this is Nikitas's fucking debut!

And then there's the fucking Nordic trolls or tomte, as they are known in the book. The tomte show up once in a while to help Lucia through a tough spot - help her find something important or see something that helps move the plot along. It sounds completely gaytarded, as Brian Posehn would say, but it makes sense within the reality of the book, with how Nikitas depicts the events. Are there actually little creatures running around helping out Lucia, or is it just the delusions of a girl whose father - a father violently murdered in front of her eyes just days previous - drilled these stories and myths into her head from an early age? It's pretty ingenious, actually.

But what really makes this fucker hum is the action. This is some of the most intense violence you will read anywhere, depicted on a level that is arguably McCarthyian - no shit. If they were to adapt this novel for the screen, it could never keep the violence true to the book and still come away with an R-rating. Some shocking stuff happens in this motherfucker and when it isn't completely disgusting, it is absolutely riveting.

I can't wait for Nikitas to pump out another book. This dude has the chops to intrigue both the beret-wearing totebag-carriers and the folks like you and me who want our pulp to go all the way. He's fighting the best fight and I support the shit out of him for that.

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