Rusty Puppy by Joe R. Lansdale
After starting with the best beginning phrase I’ve read for a long while (“I was still getting over being dead…”), this Hap and Leonard adventure was off and running.
Hap, the white half of the team, is recovering from a gunshot wound, dying twice in the hospital when Louise, a black lady who lives across the street, comes into the office wanting to speak to the other one, the black one: Leonard. Her son Jamar, she says, has been murdered in Camp Rapture and she wants them to investigate. Because that’s a tough, black neighborhood, she would rather Leonard take her case. When she realizes that she and Hap bonded a few years ago over an incident at a chicken plant, he’s hired. And no, she doesn’t want the cops involved. She’s pretty sure they’re the ones who killed her son.
The investigators wade into this murky case, getting rumors and half-truths from reluctant witnesses. One of them, Little Woman, is dubbed a “four-hundred-year-old midget vampire” by Leonard and the description fits. She’s a great character.
They discover that Jamar was trying to gather evidence to defend his sister, who was abusively arrested by Officer Coldpoint, and he may very well have been killed by the cops. The story, buoyed along by the hilarious banter between the two main characters—raunchy but definitely hilarious—takes the self-professed persistent bumblers to an old mill where broken bodies have been recovered from an opaque, toxic mill pond. The bodies are dubbed “rusty puppies” because of the discolored debris they are coated with when they’re recovered.
Hap spins a tale of racial violence, hatred, and brutality while the reader wonders if the duo has met their match at last.
Reviewed by Kaye George, Editor of, Day of the Dark: Eclipse Stories, for Suspense Magazine.