Subterranean – 2017 – Ken Laagar.
Hap and Leonard are kind of an odd couple in the realm of Joe Lansdale’s swamp noir, Hap an aging white hippie with an aversion to guns and Leonard a gay black war vet with a fiery temper. But despite their differences they couldn’t be closer friends, and together they solve mysteries and do dirty jobs with Hap’s girlfriend Brett, his daughter Chance, and their rescued dog Buffy. Their current job is definitely shady, and a bit crazy, but nothing too far out of the ordinary: a man hires the duo to exchange a sack full of money for the hijacked, mummified corpse of Coco Butternut, a show dog that belonged to the client’s mother. It seems like an easy, if odd, way to make some money, but as usual Hap and Leonard dig a little too deep into the case and discover that isn’t as simple as it sounds…
I think that some of Lansdale’s best Hap and Leonard stories have been these novellas—they’re tight, fast-paced, funny, and developed enough to have an interesting and engaging plot without any excess or padding. The characters are their usual oddball selves, exchanging witty banter and one-liners, while Leonard gave a voice to my incredulity of naming a dog “Coco Butternut” by mocking it incessantly. They’re also not afraid to get their hands dirty, though they always stay good guys fighting for a good cause—Lansdale isn’t afraid to delve into social issues, and has dealt with issues like racism and abuse in earlier stories. Coco Butternut is a slim volume that may not be as deep or complex as the novels, but it’s still entertaining as hell to see the characters banter while solving an inventive mystery. My only complaint is that it doesn’t address the cliffhanger ending of Honky-Tonk Samurai, so I guess we must wait for the forthcoming novel Rusty Puppy.
Coco Butternut is a good way to hold yourself over while waiting for the release of Rusty Puppy (and season two of the hit Sundance TV series based on the books). In a way it’s like hanging out with old friends, only where those friends are crass but lovable private investigators who always get stuck with the weird cases. It’s violent, it’s silly, it’s irrelevant, and it’s damn good entertainment, which is really all I ask for from the series. Fans will appreciate it as another solid entry in a series that’s never dull; newcomers can start here without really missing a beat, but with all the history and backstory that’s gone on, those who like Coco Butternut may benefit from going back and reading the series from the beginning.
You can pre-order Coco Butternut now from Subterranean Press, with an expected ship date of the end of January. I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an open and honest review.
Title: Coco Butternut
Author: Joe R. Lansdale
First Published: 31 January 2017
What I Read: Subterranean Press ebook
Price I Paid: $0 (e-ARC via SubPress)
MSRP: $40 signed ltd hc / $25 trade hc / $4 ebook
ISBN: 1596068035 / B01MTZWS14