Hard Bite by Anonymous-9 features a paraplegic vigilante, his enforcer (an extremely well-trained capuchin monkey named Sid), a pissed off mother (who just happens to be the de facto head of a Mexican drug cartel), a savvy streetwalker, a boatload of Los Angeles law enforcement, enough blood to float the Titanic, and a guns blazing finale.
Now, I know a sizable portion of my regular readers are as “off” in the head as I am, and for you lot that will be all the description you need to be hooked. So, off you go. Buy the book.
For those of you who want a little more, here we go.
Dean Drayhart used to be a normal guy. He worked a boring but lucrative job in insurance, had a wife and lovely seven-year-old daughter, and while he was aware of the fragility of life – how can you not be looking at actuarial tables and statistics all day – he never really thought about death in terms of himself or his family. That is not until a hit-and-run driver destroyed everything Dean held dear.
Now his child is dead, and his marriage is as distant a memory as his ability to use his legs. He lost a hand too, and his GI tract hasn’t been quite right either since the accident, which had the added insult of “squashing [his] large intestine to mush.” Now, well, Dean’s on a first name basis with death these days. Initially it was in terms of considering suicide, “which lost its appeal contemplated deeply,” but instead turned into an obsession with seeking vengeance on hit-and-run drivers.
Enter Sid. Provided to Dean to act as a service animal, Dean institutes his own training regimen for the little guy. Now in addition to being able to help Dean drive, play DJ by putting in music (he’s partial to Keni Lee Burgess), dole out sodas (he knows the difference between diet and regular – he prefers regular), and answer a cell phone (no, he doesn’t talk, he just puts it on speaker so Dean can), Sid also knows how to kill. One command of “hard bite” from Dean and the adorable little monkey will rip someone’s jugular out with his not so adorable fangs. They make for a successful little vigilante partnership, Dean and Sid, until Dean unknowingly turns Sid loose on a member of a Mexican drug cartel. And not just any member, but the son of the head of the cartel, who orders Dean’s nurse, Marci, kidnapped and held as leverage to get Dean to surrender. Now man and monkey must put their minds together and figure out how to stay one step ahead of the law, rescue Marci, and try to come out the other side of this mess alive.
Depending on your personality, Hard Bite probably sounds either ridiculously funny (c’mon, a hitmonkey?) or incredibly dark (damn, a hitmonkey!). Well, guess what? It’s both. Anonymous-9, the pen name of author/editor Elaine Ash, has captured lightning in a bottle with Hard Bite. Dean could have been a pathetic, maudlin character, but as brought to life by Ash’s skilled pen he’s actually a wry, amazingly levelheaded, personable narrator. I mean, yeah, he’s a serial killer, but given the circumstances you can understand why he does what he does. Intellectually he knows he can never regain the things he lost as a result of the accident, but emotionally he’s still striving to be whole again, and his mission of meting out justice to hit-and-run drivers gives him the purpose he needs to keep moving forward. Ash also strikes the right balance with Sid. While there’s no question there are moments of undeniable cuteness (a monkey scarfing down shrimp cocktail?), that Sid is an animal, one capable of great violence, is something that is always simmering just below the surface.
Simmering is a good way to describe Hard Bite in general, actually. Once Ash introduces us to the characters and drops the plot into place, she slowly, relentlessly keeps turning up the heat on the way to bringing things to a full boil. Along the way she peppers the story with some wickedly dark humor, as well as some graphic violence (Sid isn’t the only one taking people out), before leading characters and readers alike into a finale worthy of a Tarantino film. And Sid’s not the only clever monkey around, as Ash leaves just enough wiggle room in the ending to allow readers to fill in a blank or two based on their interpretation of events.
The end result of it all is an incredibly creative, engaging read, not quite like anything you’ve ever encountered before. I can guarantee you it won’t be the last encounter readers will have with Anonymous-9/Ash, however, as this woman’s definitely got the goods.