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Some people seem invincible. Maybe you remember your Granddad or your Father when you were young and you could not comprehend anything bad ever happening to them because they were so strong. Perhaps you know some one who seems to live a life filled with good luck no matter what they do they seem to come out on top. However, everyone is human and bad things can happen to us all. When these things happen to the lucky or strong people that you know the impact is intensified as it comes as a shock. In the world of crime fiction Joe R. Lansdales Hap and Leonard have been like supermen as they get into scrapes and come out the other end stronger; even their winning streak must come to an end.
A young black female reporter has gone missing when investigating the suicide of a man in police custody. As she has not officially disappeared Hap and Leonard are hired to investigate. This would probably be a pretty straight forward missing persons case, but the town she went missing in happens to be the last realm of the KKK. If they manage to keep their heads down they might just be able to undertake a quite investigation, but do you think an out spoken 6ft gay black man would go unnoticed in that type of town?
For fans of the Hap and Leonard crime books Two-bear Mambo has been heralded as the peak as we discover more about them as men than in all the previous books combined. Lansdale writes excellent and funny books that rely on being quite shallow. Hap and Leonard are clearly great friends and complete opposites but through teasing and joshing they manage to get along like best friends should. It is this central relationship that makes Two-bear Mambo a book worth reading as it is very well written. They feel comfortable in each others presence even though one is a laid back Texan red neck and the other is a hyped up gay black man!
However, for all the success that the central relationship has brought to these books Two-bear Mambo tries to undo it. Events conspire to break these two men both physically and mentally only to follow their rehabilitation and whether or not they can reconcile their relationship. I have two issues with the way that this relationship dynamic occurred in this book. Firstly, it dominated the entire book and prevented the storyline from taking the central stage that it should have. Secondly, I felt as a fan of the series that I did not want to see two of my favourite, apparently invincible, characters become undone. This is a completely personal view of the situation as I can imagine that just as many fans loved the fact that the characters developed so much. However, I like things to change slowly over time and not in one book. Lansdale has basically made this book unreadable for first time visitors to the series as they will not understand what is going on.
As mentioned in the previous paragraph this book does suffer from having a weak storyline. It is not particularly awful, but it is not developed enough. It acts as a coat hanger for the impact the events have on the characters. That is not saying that everything is bad about the book. The dialogue is of the incredibly high standard that I now expect from Lansdale and some parts are laugh out loud. The fact that the book is set in deepest Texas allows him to create some of the funniest local sayings ever.
The side characters are also very well realised in Two-bear Mambo with every member of the town being both a suspect and a friend. Lansdale paints everyone as shades of grey; even our two heroes. The setting is realised fantastically and you can picture perfectly in your minds eye the Hicksville that Lansdale envisions. With this rich source of description and humour being of an awesome standard throughout, it is a shame that the plot was so thin.
If you take Two-bear Mambo as a standalone title it will read as an entertaining, if slightly empty and average book. It is part of a series of books and unlike the others it can not be read on its own. It does not compare favourably to Mucho Mojo or Savage Season although all the same comedic elements are there. The book is very rude as Lansdale fills it with hicks and racists who swear and use foul language. This is definitely at a level that would upset some people. If Lansdale had managed to add a stronger plot, as well as develop his characters, Two-bear Mambo could have been the pinnacle of the series thus far. Unfortunately, he did no such thing and the plot has little relevance to the novel at all. I for one find this a shame as it will discourage new readers from reading anymore books in the set as it is distinctly average.
Author: Joe R. Lansdale
Price: amazon uk - £5.59
play.com - £5.49
Florida Grange, Leonard's drop-dead gorgeous lawyer and Hap's former lover, has vanished in Klan-infested Grovetown while in pursuit of the real story behind the jailhouse death of a legendary bluesman's blackguard son. Fearing the worst, Hap and Leonard set out to do the kind of investigating the good ole boy cops can't - or won't - do. In Grovetown they encounter a redneck police chief, a sadistic Christmas tree grower, and townsfolk itchin' for a lynchin'. Add to this a dark night exhumation in a voodoo graveyard, a thunderstorm of Biblical proportions, and flat-out sudden murder. Hap and Leonard vow to face the hate and find Florida, even if Leonard has to put a hole in anyone who gets in the way. Besides, they've packed a lunch.