Mysterious Book Report No. 277

by John Dwaine McKenna

For the folks living over on the left coast, earthquakes are an accepted fact of life; about as ordinary—and as welcome—as public rudeness or graffiti on our national monuments.  They’re a trade-off perhaps, for the warm, wonderful Mediterranean climate and the endless eye-popping coastline, its scenic wonders and bountiful interior where the crops grow without end.  Almost a perfect place . . . except for those damnable temblors that come along every now and then and tear things up.  An earthquake however, makes a great background for our MBR this week.

Shaker, (Knopf/Penguin/Random House, $26.95, 333 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-35003-7) by Scott Frank begins just a few days after the Los Angeles area has been devastated by a large earthquake . . . when a quiet, unassuming, middle-aged man named Roy Cooper comes to town.  He’s an errand runner for some New York City mobsters, and his errand is to clip a guy named Martin Shine . . . who disappeared after embezzling a boatload of money.  Roy arrives, rents a car and gets a map to Shine’s apartment, where he takes care of business.  No more Martin Shine.  Roy makes his exit, but can’t find his car and after searching for a while, ends up in the midst of a mugging that becomes a second murder.  Of course, being it’s LA, someone’s watching . . . and filming . . . all the action as the murder takes place in the alley behind his house.  What makes the video go viral however, is when Roy does something to one of the four gang-bangers who’s holding a gun on him, the very same guy that Roy used on Martin Shine only moments earlier.  In the next instant, that same lil banger will use that same antique pistol to blow away the jogger he and his three fellows had been terrorizing when Ray Cooper stumbled into their midst.  Almost immediately, most of the City of Angels is hunting for Roy and the four young men who killed the jogger . . . who just happened to be the Hispanic law-and-order candidate for mayor in the upcoming election.  With pitch-perfect dialog and dialect, non-stop action and a twisted, diabolic plot, which still finds places for humor that’s reminiscent of the late, great Elmore Leonard, Shaker is bound to be enjoyed by all who read it.  We sure did!

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