Black Cat: Grove. Aug. 2010. c.352p. ISBN 978-0-8021-7076-7. pap. $14. M
If books came with MPAA ratings, Smith's fourth novel (after Moist, Delicious, and Salty) would definitely get an NC-17. But if you can't tell that from looking at the cover (the ARC showed a silhouette of a nude woman with marijuana leaves covering her breasts), rest assured that the novel contains plenty of drug references, drug use, and sexual content. But it's also a tightly plotted, well-paced caper with a message, à la Carl Hiaasen. Miro, our hero, is an experimental botanist who wins the Cannabis Cup (a real competition held annually in Amsterdam) with a new strain of marijuana. From the moment he wins, the plot is set in motion through the world of illegal drug trade, legal medical marijuana centers, and the many cultures of Los Angeles. Crazy characters abound, from a sex-crazed Mormon burrito roller to a cop with the most logical mind, to the improbably named Irish/Latino gangster Shamus Noriega.
VERDICT Not for the easily offended or the president of your local D.A.R.E. chapter, but an enjoyable ride for the rest of us.

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