Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Rolling Thunder by A.J. Devlin

Several years ago, I reviewed a debut mystery, Cobra Clutch by A.J. Devlin. It went on to win the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Although I said at the time I normally wouldn't appreciate a book set in the world of pro wrestling, I loved Devlin's wrestler turned amateur investigator, "Hammerhead" Jed Ounstead, and Jed's outrageous cousin, IRA member turned bartender, Declan St. James. Jed and Declan are back in Rolling Thunder. Jed's now a private investigator with a provisional license, working under his father's supervision at Ounstead & Son Investigations. He's still doing some professional wrestling. And, Declan still has the same ribald sense of humor and amazing fighting skills. I love these two characters.

In Cobra Clutch, Jed investigated the murder of his former tag team partner. Stephanie Danielson, a wrestler known as Stormy Daze, was a suspect for a brief period. Now, she's skating in roller derby as the Amazombie, and she and her teammates hire Jed to find their missing coach, Lawrence Kunstlinger. It's a case that thrusts Jed into a world that's as bizarre as pro wrestling's world. But, can anything be as bizarre as the Emerald Shillelagh, the bar where Declan battles daily with students from the Vancouver Film School and with customers who don't appreciate Guinness?

Jed's investigation takes him to a bookie, Sykes, a man who can make connections for the case. But, Sykes, devoted to training his champion racing dachshund, Napoleon, always wants a favor before he'll make a connection. Sykes' favors send Jed and Declan to a kinky sex club and a casino, and, eventually put Jed in contact with a sleazy talk show host and entrepreneur. But, Jed's investigation also leads to the roller derby coach's murder.

The police might be investigating the murder, but Jed's angry and feeling guilty. He witnessed the man's violent death, and he heard the coach's dying words. If he can figure out what they mean, he might just be able to find out why someone wanted to kill a roller derby coach.

I loved Rolling Thunder for several reasons. Let's start with characters, Jed, Declan, and, even Sykes. Jed's a guilt-ridden man who still loves wrestling despite his past. He's a determined investigator who wants justice for victims. And, he's trying. He has his flaws, as anyone does, but he's trying to be a better person. Declan, on the other hand, loves women, fighting, and has a ribald, coarse vocabulary. He's not trying to be any different, and Jed sometimes drives him nuts. Sykes is devoted to training the best racing dachshund he can, and he handles his business ventures with competence and confidence.

In addition, I would have never viewed roller derby in the manner it's presented in Rolling Thunder. Stormy Daze says, "This is roller derby. Our names empower us as warrior women and make us who we are." The Pacific Northwest teams are more hardcore and extreme than most of the other leagues, and they'll fight to keep it that way because the women and their coaches see it as "empowering women".

Devlin's Rolling Thunder can be crude, even a little lewd at times. But, it's just so much fun, action-packed and non-stop. If you're looking for a fun, violent mystery, check it out.

A.J. Devlin's website is www.ajdevlin.com

Rolling Thunder by A.J. Devlin. NeWest Press, 2020. ISBN 9781988732862 (paperback), 272p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

As of April 21st the audiobook for Cobra Clutch can be found at the following locations: Audible, Kobo, Google, Findaway, Bibliotecha, Hibooks, Scribd, Playster, Downpour, ABC (not connected to the TV channel), Libro FM, Recorded Audio, Hoopla, OverDrive, Storytel and a few other small ones.

And here are a few direct links:









7 comments:

Grace Koshida said...

Lesa, I had a similar hesitation about reading Cobra Clutch at first. But I saw AJ Devlin at LCC Vancouver. The opening lines of the book just cracked me up with laughter and since the book was set in Vancouver, I gave it a try and glad I did. His book did not win the Lefty for best debut but as you said, it did win the Arthur Ellis award that year.

Happy to see Jed back in Rolling Thunder. Both pro wrestling and roller derbies are not professions that I normally would think I would enjoy but I am glad to see Jed and his quirky cronies back for another story.

Glen Davis said...

I really enjoyed Cobra clutch, and I'm looking forward to this one.

Lesa said...

Those opening lines catch you right away, don't they, Grace? I know that's the reason I kept going with the unlikely subject matter. I'm glad I did, too. And, I love the quirky characters in this book.

Lesa said...

You're going to enjoy it, Glen.

Margie Bunting said...

Sounds like fun. I hope it's a giveaway!

Lesa said...

Hmmm. Maybe so, Margie.

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