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"Get the thing straight once and for all. The policeman isn’t there to create disorder. The policeman is there to preserve disorder."

—Richard Daley, mayor Chicago

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The Hard Bounce

by Todd Robinson
Tyrus Books, February 2013, $24.95

Boo Malone, a bouncer for a Boston music club, knows his way around trouble. He tries to avoid it most of the time, but violence has a way of sucking him in. When not kicking troublemakers, drunks, and junkies out of the club, Boo does small security jobs or tracks down lowlife bail jumpers around town with his longtime buddy Junior. They’re not living the good life, but it’s a helluva lot better than rotting away in the orphanage where Boo and Junior first met years ago.

A little fortune comes their way when a highly respectable (and rich) public figure hires the two to track down his runaway teenage daughter, Cassie. Boo and Junior take the job, and though the two roughnecks are no tourists when it comes to the sleazy underbelly of Boston, they descend to a whole new circle of hell festering with pornographers, murderers, and the sadists who trade in turning death into entertainment. Already burdened with an anger management problem, Boo Malone is about to see red in a much deeper color.

What immediately makes an impact in Todd Robinson’s debut novel is Boo’s brusque demeanor and voice (it’s written in first-person). Bad attitude oozes from Boo, but humor and a bruised compassion come through as well. It’s that complexity of character that keeps him interesting, even when he’s alienating us with his aggro style. He’s not the most likable guy around, though he’s exactly the kind of man you want to hunt down the worst people imaginable. Robinson paints a tragic backstory for Boo that resonates deeply through the novel, lending the character a gritty authenticity that always feels spot-on. That two-fisted realism translates to the city of Boston, too, a place of runaways, punk clubs, dingy bars, and working class neighborhoods.

This is a great debut and should appeal to fans of Andrew Vachss and similar writers of unflinching neo-hardboiled fiction.

—Derek Hill