“Are you ready for some darkness? Are you ready for some fun? Do you wanna touch the night tonight? Or do you want to grab your hat and run?“ Those are the opening lyrics to a song by the great Norwegian rock band, Turbonegro. It goes without saying that their tune, Are You Ready for Some Darkness? has absolutely nothing to do with Will Christopher Baer’s Kiss Me, Judas, but it certainly could be the novel’s theme song, for this novel is indeed a quick trip through the velvety nighttime world of crime, sex, death, danger, and survival.
Every now and then I get little jabs from friends and coworkers in regards to how I can only enjoy a book or a movie if it’s dark. That may be true in some respects, but I think what it ultimately comes down to is that I enjoy the “rhythm” of a good, dark-natured story, (which is perhaps why I likened this book to a rock and roll song). For me, a good creepy, noir novel hits much harder than the standard horror fare. Kiss Me, Judas does indeed follow the classic noir grooves, but there is also plenty of humor within this story’s eerie, psychological suspense. Baer’s writing tends to crescendo along with the same frenetic energy that guides his characters through their desolate paths towards death and destruction. His punchy prose ascends while they descend.
This book marks the introduction of Phineas Poe, a drunken, disgraced ex-cop who spends most of his time in and out of mental institutions, (Phineas is also a recurring character in Baer’s follow-up novels, Penny Dreadful, and Hell’s Half Acre). The very first words that you hear come straight from Phineas… “I must be dead for there is nothing but blue snow and the furious silence of a gun shot.” As he comes-to from his druggish slumber, Phineas realizes that Jude, the sexy woman who had just given him the night of his life, is nowhere to be found, and that he his laying in a tub of ice with his body cut wide open. As soon as he notices that he is missing a kidney, he finds a note that says, “If you want to live, call 911.”
On his semi-conscious journey through society’s underbelly to find his dangerous seductress, Phineas encounters characters with names like Rose, Pooh, Eve, and “The Blister,” (Phineas’s fight scene with The Blister may be one of the most hilarious visuals I’ve ever conjured). Things don’t end up pretty for Phineas, nor for any of the characters for that matter. In fact, Phineas’s timeline is cut even shorter as he discovers that his mysterious Jude has not only stolen one of his kidneys, she has replaced it with a bag of heroin for smuggling purposes. If the bag dissolves, he dies.
The gritty visuals and the fast pacing of this skillfully written book will make you feel like you’ve been intravenously injected into a Tarantino film. If gloom-laced action and high speed crime is up your alley, chances are the dark alleys of Kiss Me, Judas will treat you as right as rain.
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