Bite Harder by Anonymous-9

Anonymous9I look useless, you think. You think wrong. — Dean Drayhart

When we last saw Dean Drayhart and Sid, the lead duo in Anonymous-9’s critically-acclaimed Hard Bite, Dean was in jail and Sid’s fate was unclear. And while one could read Bite Harder without first having read Hard Bite, Bite Harder is a sequel in the very truest sense of the word—events pick up literally where those of the first book left off and expand upon them—so I do think to get the most out of Bite Harder one should first read Hard Bite.

To that end, a quick recap of the premise of Hard Bite is in order (my full review here).

Dean Drayhart used to be a normal guy, until a hit-and-run driver destroyed everything he held dear—his daughter was killed, he was maimed and paralyzed, and his marriage disintegrated. Stuck in a funk, things took an interesting turn when Dean was provided with a service animal, Sid, an extremely well-trained capuchin monkey.

Together, the two turned into vigilantes, unleashing vengeance on hit-and-run drivers across LA—on the command of “hard bite” from Dean adorable little Sid will rip someone’s jugular out with his not so adorable fangs. Unfortunately, one of their targets/victims happened to be the son of Orella Malalinda, matriarch of a Mexican drug cartel, and needless to say things got very messy—many died, Dean ended up arrested, and Sid was in the wind. Cue Bite Harder.

Dean now sits in jail in LA awaiting trial and his near-certain destiny with death row. Sid, it turns out, was rescued by Cinda, Dean’s sometimes girlfriend, who spirited him upstate, where she now works as a waitress while Sid, fur dyed black in disguise, helps out during the day at an assisted living facility. Orella Malalinda, still seeking vengeance for her son, orders a hit on Dean as he sits helpless in jail. When that’s unsuccessful—it’s impossible to find good help these days—she arranges his kidnapping—yes, kidnapped from jail—and Cinda is spurred to return and try to rescue Dean before Malalinda can stage her morbid coup de grâce.

If it sounds like a bit of a wild ride, that’s because it is. As she did in Hard Bite, Anonymous-9 has crafted in Bite Harder a wonderfully warped set of circumstances. It takes a skilled and confident author to make a paraplegic vigilante and his hit monkey believable, and Anonymous-9 does so without breaking stride, or a sweat. Nestled in amongst the car chases, shootouts and monkey smackdowns, however, is an interesting and complex psychological study.

Whereas the Dean of Hard Bite was a loose cannon gleefully pursuing his vigilante action with the confidence of the deathly wronged and truly righteous, the Dean who emerges in Bite Harder is far more conflicted and introspective. On the one hand, as strong of mind as he may be, there’s no getting around the fact Dean is a sad sack physically. He’s tired, and not sure he has the strength to try and ride things out anymore. After all, the whole reason he started down the vigilante path in the first place was because he had nothing left to live for—his daughter is dead, his wife gone. But…now there’s Sid and Cinda. What does he owe them? And beyond simply owing them, he cares about them. Enough to fight on? It makes for an interesting psychological rock and hard place.

As is the case with most sequels, Bite Harder is stripped down and moves at a much faster pace, the setup having been taken care of in the first outing. The action hits redline right from the jump and pretty much never lets up, but no matter how bombastic it gets at times, Anonymous-9 never lets the human element get too far from the forefront. That combination of action and heart allows for an enjoyable dose of occasionally over-the-top mayhem that all the same never lets the reader forget there are real, often brutal, consequences to the choices the characters make. Even when that character only weighs eight pounds and has fangs and a tail.

Bite Harder is available from Down & Out Books (ISBN: 978-1937495756).

Anonymous-9 (pen name of author/editor Elaine Ash) lives in California, parties in Texas, and traces her DNA back to Vikings in Scotland. Short stories by Anonymous-9 have earned a Thriller Award nomination by an ITW judging panel, Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Short Story on the Web, and two Derringer nominations. Her books include Dreaming Deep, Crashing Through Mirrors, Hard Bite, Bite Harder, and the short story collection Just So You Know I’m Not Dead. To learn more about Anonymous-9, follow her on Twitter or visit her website.

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