Beat The Reaper, by Josh Bazell

ISBN: 978-0099527527 Windmill Books

In an earlier Shelf Indulgence review, I commented: ‘Bazell doesn’t tap politely at crime fiction’s door and wait for admittance: he kicks the door down and charges right in.’ Beat the Reaper, Josh Bazell’s debut novel in 2009, is a preposterous, funny, exciting, glorious piece of fiction.

Peter Brown is a resident physician. A gentle, intellectual Jewish boy who originally set out to revenge a double murder and along the way became the Mob’s most feared hitman. He lies, he kills – but always with a conscience. He’s also an expert in martial arts and survival techniques – and it takes every ounce of his resourcefulness to stay alive when the Mob come after him.

This weird and wonderful creation combines the wicked charm of Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter and the visceral shock of Tarantino’s films. Bazell, a medical doctor himself, uses footnotes to explain human biology and science. It might throw you at first but bear with it: the information is peculiarly seductive, and Bazell’s presentation of the facts are playful and shocking in just the right measure, so you’ll find yourself looking forward to his brief asides.

Beat the Reaper is inventive, ebullient, and charged with an energy that is half rage and half sheer joyful exuberance.

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