Twelve Step Fandango by Chris Haslam

Nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for an Edgar award, Chirs Haslam’s Twelve Step Fandango takes the reader on a fast trip through Spain’s Gibraltor region. Martin Brock, the main character, scratches out a living dealing stepped on cocaine to tourists along the Costa del Sol. Martin’s a despicable guy, whiny, greedy, disloyal; his circle of friends aren’t friends at all, just fellow travelers through a haze of petty crime, fat lines and communal indolence. When Yves, another non-friend shows up, he ignites the story by dying and leaving five keys of cocaine behind. Martin, somewhat guilt-ridden about the corpse, telephones Paris to see if Yves has any family interested in burying the poor guy; he reaches Jean Marc, a thug more interested in the coke than funeral arrangements.

Twelve Step Fandango is a caper novel. Once Jean Marc arrives in Spain Martin’s world explodes in violence and murder. Written in the first person the story belongs to Martin and his quest for the big score. The plot turns nicely around Martin’s character, well established in the novel’s set-up; Haslam delivers some terrific writing while maintaining a tongue-in-cheek tone about the self-inflicted wounds Martin endures. The style clashes at times with the events being described, but remains true to the premise. No character arc here; we leave Martin as we find him which is the point of the story.

Will Chris Haslam win the Edgar for best paperback original? I don’t think so; he’s up against some tough competition like Domenic Stansbury’s The Confession . It’s Oscar weekend so maybe I’m suffering from pundit’s disorder overanalyzing a somewhat predictable process. I look forward to reading Chris Haslam’s next book whether he wins or not.