Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Big Maria, by Johnny Shaw ($14.95)

Rollicking caper adventure, bad-ass fun, the power of friendship, burro enlightenment, what does a proving range have to prove, and gold. Shake yourself and these elements vigorously, and you've got Big Maria, Johnny Shaw's second book.

I laughed. I cried. I couldn't wait to read more. If a crazy man wrote a caper novel, this is what it would be. I'll describe the book in a few sentences, but in no way does it do justice to the jam-packed adventures that the three losers/heroes experience.

Young Ricky's life is just barely sustainable. His joy and motivation come from his wife and young daughter. Then an accident leaves him hopeless.

Middle-aged Harry has an unfortunate nickname (read the book if you want to know) that he has tried to live down to. He's a prison guard on disability leave. Disability leave = getting drunk and doing disgusting things to himself.

Frank is an old man. All his friends have died and he has one foot teetering over his grave. It doesn't help that his daughter and her two sons are either intolerable, crazy, or high. (P.S. And funny!)

An odd set of circumstances brings the three men together on a quest for hidden gold.

It is easy to like the three. They combine the few talents they have, reach into themselves for the courage to begin, and fall into an unlikely friendship. Sometimes Shaw uses slapstick comedy and sometimes ironic humor. Sometimes it's "The Three Musketeers," sometimes "The Three Stooges." Shaw conjures up pathos and sentimentality, catastrophe and catharsis, and does it well.

Think Dante's journey. Replace Virgil with a donkey. Now you've got it.

Note: OMG, I did this review soooo long ago. Because we get advanced copies pretty early on, I hold the reviews until around the actual release date. I put this review in a nice tidy corner of my computer folder...and forgot about it. What was I thinking? I loved this book!

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