Joe Hustle

Mulholland. Jun. 2024. 272p. ISBN 9780316568470. $29. M
After a successful left turn into the supernatural in the 2021 vampire novel Rovers, Lange returns with a memorably gritty neo-noir. Joe Hustle lives up to his moniker, surviving on odd jobs and the generosity of a rogues’ gallery of characters in his orbit. Tending bar, minding the register at a convenience store, driving drunk people around at all hours: anything he can take to eke out another day on the seedy side of Los Angeles. Everything changes when he’s hired on a painting job up in the Hollywood Hills and meets Emily, the owner’s wild-child sister. Joe and Emily begin a tenuous but intense relationship, providing Joe with a stability and a sense of purpose he hasn’t had in years, one that is threatened when he finds himself homeless, he becomes the target of a local drug dealer, and Emily begs him to take a cross-country road trip to see her estranged daughter. The chapters with action alternate with transcripts of Joe’s conversation with an unidentified person to flesh out his backstory.
VERDICT Lange is so adept at drawing his two main characters that readers won’t mind the relative lack of plot twists; the real suspense comes from seeing Joe Hustle skate by one more time.
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