Every Man a Menace

With style and intrigue, Patrick Hoffman's Every Man a Menace proves that his top-flight debut San Francisco crime novel, The White Van, was no fluke. Here, the drug of choice is Molly (aka MDMA or Ecstasy), and Hoffman's dealers are occasionally hapless, but more often just plain ruthless. A former Bay Area private investigator, Hoffman unwinds his story from the murder of a small-time ex-con caught in a high stakes double-cross deal. He later adds in a San Francisco Filipina Molly queen's cross-border drug chain, the Miami club owners who broker the product and the Asian packagers who manage global distribution. Set largely in San Francisco, Miami and Bangkok, Every Man a Menace vibrates with punchy prose reminiscent of authors like Dashiell Hammett, Elmore Leonard and John Burdett, who made those cities their own.

There is no sentimentality along Hoffman's drug chain--it's all about the money. The ex-con in the novel's first of five parts sets the tone: "He liked making money from drugs, from illegal s**t. It made him feel high." Handshake agreements are only good if the money follows, as when the Miami brokers assess a deal with the Molly queen: " 'Can she be trusted?'... 'Of course not. But she has the money.... She'll buy it, come back, buy it again.' " No surprise--when the size of the deal gets big enough, handshakes and a table of comped drinks give way to betrayal, Glocks and bodies buried at sea. There are no heroes here. Hammett, Leonard and Burdett will need to make room for the new gunslinger in town. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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