For Matt Hodges this Tuesday morning finds him in what has become a common place event as What Happens In Reno by Mike Monson opens. Waking up in the car in the parking lot of the old Denny's just north of downtown Modesto, California after yet another hard night of drinking and bar hopping. Going home just after 7am to shower and clean up wasn't really a good idea either as his cheating wife, Lydia, is waiting there for him.
Their marriage is circling in a toilet bowl of pain and despair. He's mad that she is cheating on him with various guys as a way of getting back at him because of his employment problems, gambling, and heavy drinking. She's mad at him over his drinking, gambling, and inability to keep a job as well as his failures as a stepfather to her teenage son, Tanner. Now she has involved another person in the madness of their lives with her latest boyfriend, Hunter Manning. He's a real winner as he is an ex-con with Aryan Brotherhood associations and a propensity to violence of all kinds. That isn't surprising considering his shaved head, numerous tattoos, and a general bad attitude.
Today is the day Matt Hodges is finally going to sell his mom's old house. Once the mortgage is paid off and other claims are resolved, Matt will receive a little more than 12k. Considering his various issues and her belief that she has paid everything for months on end, Lydia wants all of the money. She plans to use 5k for a much needed tummy tuck as she works to improve her body post weight loss. Per Lydia, Matt’s only mission for the day is to get to the bank with the check and get all of the money into their account. Do not pass go and do not take twenty dollars. She should have known better trusting Matt with the check as Matt is a drunk and degenerate gambler so there is no way that will ever happen.
If you have read Mike Monson's very good and very adult oriented novella The Scent of New Death you will see some of the same themes at work here. Violence of all types plays a center role in this read though not quite at the same level of the novella. Sexual situations, graphic language and violence, and adult topics are very much present in this book as the read follows the various characters. Those who prefer the violence offstage and their language clean without curse words are advised to avoid this read. Nobody is a happy camper in this book and all involved use various ways of coping with their unhappiness. They self-medicate by way of meaningless and often rough sex, alcohol, drugs, and/or gambling. Some characters know they are on a downward path to disaster while others have absolutely no clue.
While a well written book What Happens In Reno is a dark read and very much strong noir with occasional flashes of very dark and twisted humor. Though highly entertaining if you like your reads dark and twisted this is not a read featuring any likeable characters or anyone that makes you feel good about humanity. No puppies will be saved, no one helps old women across the street, and the theme of take what you want is followed by all. What Happens in Reno is also a good hard hitting novella and well worth your time.
Material supplied by the author in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2014
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