Matt Forney
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The Boots Are Red by Adam Lawson

boots-are-redHardboiled detective fiction is one of those genres that has largely been left in the dust, like Westerns. The whole film noir idea of one man against the world, dealing with violent criminals and mysterious dames, seems antiquated and old-fashioned. Will The Boots Are Red spearhead a renaissance in detective novels?

No, but it’s still a damn good read.

While it doesn’t transcend the conventions of detective novels, The Boots Are Red succeeds as an interesting story. It won’t blow your socks off, but if you enjoy sharp dialogue and smart plots, it’s worth your time.

The book follows Ron Cavanaugh, a Korean War vet who returns to his placid Southern town and falls into a web of murder and intrigue. His long-time friend Kate Nass has been murdered, and Cavanaugh finds himself thrust into Nass’ job as resident private dick, uncovering the corruption and deceit at every level of his town’s existence:

As with the last time I picked her up, seeing Audrey was pretty much the highlight of the day. I roll up in my car, right on time, and she’s ready — right on time. None of this delay while I finish up shit that a lot of women do. No, she was ready, and was she ever. Her wavy auburn hair flowed over her shoulders, her blue eyes sparkling in the fading sunlight. I have to say, her tits looked great in the dress, too, and it was a red that so perfectly went with her hair and the high heels she wore.

The Boots Are Red works because Lawson is a talented writer; his prose has a Chandlerian slickness to it, rolling off the page with ease. Additionally, his occasional jokes are a riot, playing off the reality that private detectives actually live (several segments have Cavanaugh investigating men who might be cheating on their wives). Lawson is also economical with his words, painting a vivid picture with metaphors and tightly-penned dialogue.

All throughout the book, I kept thinking that the book would make a great movie.

My only real issue with the book is that it doesn’t rise above the level of pastiche. As I stated already, it does detective fiction well, but it doesn’t play with or subvert the genre’s formula in any significant way. That said, The Boots Are Red is a fun read and worth checking out if you enjoy detective novels.

Click here to buy The Boots Are Red.

Read Next: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon