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Luca Bennett always seems to be fighting something or someone. In Battle Axe, there are many battles to be fought on a professional and personal level. There are the minor criminals who have jumped bail. Hunting them down and turning them in forms the brunt of her work. However, voices from the past haunt her, and some of the voices are from a previous tale. Her old, established friendship with policewoman Jessica Chance has always come with some casual sex thrown in, but as Chance withdraws more and more from Luca’s life, their relationship seems to be morphing into something deeper—and more confusing. This is a big problem for Luca since she doesn’t do deep, and this throws her into an interior battle, something with which she is not familiar, nor does it attract her.
While trying to do her job as a bounty hunter, Luca walks a fine line between the law and the lawlessness she’s committed to fight against. In the process of the unfolding of this story, Luca is lied to, scammed, and put upon by a Federal Agent as well as by some of the underbelly of life in her neighborhood. Everything in Luca’s life seems to be topsy-turvy, leaving her confused and disoriented. She’s never quite sure what motivates her FBI acquaintance and she’s taken aback by her avowed bachelor brother’s plans to marry. But most of all, she’s gobsmacked by her best friend’s new relationship with a gorgeous doctor who eventually reveals a shady past. It turns out her friend, Chance, is looking for more than the casual relationship they always had, which is news to Luca. The whole situation taken together serves to old up a mirror to Luca—and what she sees is confusing and scary as all get-out.
Some of the characters in Battle Axe may be familiar to the reader of Taite’s previous book, entitled Slingshot. They reappear, bringing nothing but trouble—and a good story—with them. Taite breathes life into her characters with elemental finesse. Although they are flawed—very flawed, indeed—it’s what makes someone like Luca loveable in her own way and quite interesting, and it’s what makes the author’s work appealing.
The plot moves quickly from one issue to another with Luca getting into deeper and deeper trouble along the way. Her problems don’t always stem from dealing with criminals and gangsters, though. Some of them are a result of Luca being confronted with things beyond the surface of her existence, and they throw Luca’s world into a tilt.
Taite has given us a character in Luca that feels like a classic gumshoe in spite of the nature of her chosen profession of bounty hunter. The dialog, especially the one in Luca’s head, is characteristic of the style. Luca is loveable and pitiable all at once and the story is convoluted enough to keep the reader wondering how it all relates—and it does in the end. Luca’s humorous self-talk and confusion to her own reactions to the circumstances surrounding her makes her endearing. And although Luca is written with a tough-girl image, the story belies a soft and caring side, as evidenced in a gap that is closing between her and her family and one that seems to be opening between her and Chance.
The ending, in keeping with the rest of the story, is a bit of surprise and signals that there may well be more to come. It seems inevitable that Luca Bennett is destined to come to grips with her past and possibly with who she is—or who she is meant to be. A great read, told in the vein of a good old detective-type novel filled with criminal elements, thugs, and mobsters that will entertain and amuse.
By Carsen Taite
Bold Strokes Books
Paperback, 9781602828711, 231 pp.