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Josh Bazell
Beat the Reaper
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2009

Back Bay Books / Little, Brown / Hachette Book Group
US Trade Paperback Reprint
ISBN: 978-0-316-03221-6
Publication Date: 09-14-2009
310 Pages; $14.99
Date Reviewed: 09-16-2009

Index:  Mystery  General fiction

If you're looking for a book to, quite simply, kick your ass for a couple of days, then look no further than Josh Bazell's 'Beat the Reaper.' Here's a book where there are no slow parts, no parts you look forward to less than others. I'm guessing, by the excellently judicious overuse of the word "Fuck," the violence and the black humor, and the sex scenes that might have been preceded by the words, "Dear Penthouse, you'll never believe...," that this is a book which will primarily appeal to men. So be it. Men, line up, read this book, let Pietro Brnwa kick your butt from here 'till next Tuesday.

Two plots unfold simultaneously; Dr. Peter Brown finds himself in a couple of real pickles vis-à-vis some of his patients who will try his patience. Some years beforehand, Pietro Brnwa will transform from a teen whose grandparents have been senselessly murdered into someone who will more than be able to avenge those murders. Both plots are pretty much races from start to finish.

Along the way, 'Beat the Reaper' has all sorts of fun. Bazell's prose is breezy, exciting and exact. He sets a scene like nobody's business, so when things start to go awry, you'll have a movie playing right up there on the big screen at the back of your skull. He's got a great sense of black humor, and the book is quite funny. He makes a hospital sound only slightly safer than a freeway full of texting teenaged drivers. He pops out the sort of facts that give his darkest, most outrageous claims the ring of truth, whether he's talking about the mafia, sharks or modern so-called medicine. This book is like the greatest drinking partner you can imagine.

No, the women in the novel don’t fare so well as the men. To his credit, Bazell never uses the word "pneumatic" in reference to any of the female characters. But who cares, really, when the pace is so brisk and the writing is so much fun? 'Beat the Reaper' is in many ways quite superbly well-written. We really care about Pietro and Peter, and want them to escape the almost James-Bondian traps that await them. There's quite a bit in this paperback beyond the novel, and a lot of it is pretty interesting, especially the author's reading lists. If you read this book, the chances are you’re going to laugh out loud, a lot*, and pick up the inevitable and in fact much-anticipated sequel in hardcover. Even if the cover art threatens to drop a weight upon the lever of a crank that will slowly open up the door behind which await a pack of slavering dingoes that will threaten eat the reader instead of sticks waiting to poke out our eyes. After all, dingoes only eat babies, right?

* Those of us who adore footnotes in our fiction will feel utterly redeemed by Bazell's footnotes, which are much funnier than this one.

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