Thursday, February 7, 2013

Review: DOPE THIEF by Dennis Tafoya

Dope ThiefDOPE THIEF is essentially two tales – one of pure balls-to-the-wall, all out adrenaline noir, the other a quiet unassuming suburban-like cozy noir made for book lovers. Ray, one half of the sting duet features in both acts, firstly as a methodical hardened criminal accustomed to strong arm tactics, and lastly as a man trying to win his way back into society using money for good and making recompense for past discretions.

I love the concept of thieves imitating DEA agents to raid drug houses. The raids are calculated, written in a style I can only compare to THE WIRE. There is an urban war feel to the first act of DOPE THIEF delivered in a way that’s both realistic and humbling. Almost a case of Robin Hood with the dope thieves performing a public good by way of eliminating the competition for a much larger player. Justifiable as it may seem, it’s oh so violent with a knife edge balancing act omnipresent throughout each raid. You wait for it to go pear shaped and the author doesn’t disappoint.

“Laying there spattered with blood under the white moon like a hull of bone, he saw that there was almost nothing in it and that all around him were the dogs that slinked under the table and chewed each other’s throats for scraps….Ripping at each other with teeth and black claws and the whole time dying themselves, worn thin and bleeding. Wandering away to die alone or killed for their weakness.”

Ray and Manny become embroiled in a bikie drug war after accepting a raid by middleman Ho which lands them in the thick of bullets and bodies. No longer does the quick score seem as important, as Ray and Manny try to keep their heads away from the chopping block. While the violence is plentiful, the introspective dialogue and flashbacks to an unfortunate event which resulted in the death of Ray’s teen girlfriend really drive DOPE THIEF, turning it from pure entertainment to sometime much more meaningful. Ray’s past both condemns and redeems him - for me, the highlight of the novel.

DOPE THIEF is a very well written and multi faceted noir catering to the violent edged fiction enthusiasts and those readers who enjoy character driven journey tales laden with heartache and break alike.

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