Book Review – The Troubleshooter by Bard Constantine

Title: The Troubleshooter: New Haven Blues
Author: Bard Constantine (Website, Twitter, Facebook, Blog)
Length: Approximately 57,000 words
Purchase Link: Amazon

Now listen good, you ugly mugs–this here is a review of a book going by the name of The Troubleshooter. Subtitle? Well that’d be New Haven Blues, no relation to Connecticut if that’s what your beancan is pondering. It just happens to be the story of a private dick with the name Mick Truble, and how he travels the mean streets of the far future, cracking off lead and putting the moves on beautiful dames in a tangled stumper of a caper.

Cough, excuse me, must have had something in my throat; too many unfiltered cigarettes, I guess.

The Troubleshooter is told in first person perspective though the eyes of Mick, who at the outset is offered a case with high enough pay to get him out of debt with the Russian mob. What happens next involves plenty of noir staples–seedy nightclubs, gangsters, and more gun battles than you can shake a fedora at. Mick begins by chasing a MacGuffin called “the leg,” although his quest eventually shifts to intercepting some lightly-explained technological doohickey with the power to save the entire yadda yadda. More guns are fired, buildings explode, and many things turn out not to be what they seem, incidentally leading to a flashback that shows an event which we’ve already been told all the details of (whoops).

Really though, it doesn’t make much of a difference whether Mick was trying to find a super-powerful techno-artifact or a Maltese falcon or anything else. This book will likely appeal to those with an affinity for hard-boiled old-time detective novels (at several points, Mick waxes nostalgic about the merits of cars shaped like Duesenbergs and six-shot revolvers), and the sci-fi setting, especially in the first half, is almost incidental. But the good news is that Constantine’s writing is clever and readable, and doesn’t take itself too seriously; Mick’s sense of humor is evident in the form of many, many one-liners, most of which made me chuckle while only some made me roll my eyes and groan. The plot whizzes by with plenty of action, and I really liked the twists and thought the ending was well done.

The trouble (Truble?) is, Mr. Constantine has a bad habit of dropping information about  characters and surroundings in the form of expository paragraphs. While this can sometimes help by moving the plot forward quickly (and hey, maybe Mick just happened to be thinking of New Haven’s power shortages, or having an internal narration about the socioeconomic conditions of a neighborhood he’s been in hundreds of times), the paper-thin supporting characters decidedly do not. In particular, Mick’s two comrades-in-arms, Poddar and Rob, have the combined personality of a corpse, and the rest of the cast barely fares better. As a result, Mick is left to carry the entire story by himself, and while he pulls it off to some extent, parts of the middle felt like a drag to me; it’s tiresome to have too many gunfights in a row where we don’t care what happens to most of the participants. I would like to see Mr. Constantine continue to utilize his skills with biting, humorous prose in future works, while also focusing more on the emotional conflicts of both his heroes and villains.

Rating: Three darb bioguns hidden in a nimrod’s flogger out of five.

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