Book Review and Giveaway: Sugar on the Bones by Joe Lansdale

SUGAR ON THE BONES

By Joe R. Lansdale

Private Investigator Mystery / Noir Crime / Hard-Boiled Mystery / Lawyers and Criminals Humor

Publisher: Mulholland Books

Pages: 317

Publication Date: July 16, 2024

SYNOPSIS

In this holy mess of a case for the “perpetual bad boy” (New York Times) sleuths in the beloved Hap and Leonard series, PI Duo Hap and Leonard investigate the untimely death of a woman whose family stood much to gain from her passing.

Minnie Polson is dead. Burned to a crisp in a fire so big and bad it had to be deliberate. The only thing worse is that Hap and Leonard could have prevented it. Maybe. Minnie had a feeling she was being targeted, shaken down by some shadowy force. However, when she’d solicited Hap & Leonard, all it took was one off color joke to turn her sour and she’d called them off the investigation. Wracked with a guilty conscience, the two PIs—along with Hap’s fleet-footed wife, Brett—tuck in to the case. As they look closer, they dredge up troublesome facts: for one, Minnie’s daughter, Alice, has recently vanished. She’d been hard up after her pet grooming business went under and was in line to collect a whopping insurance sum should anything happen to her mother. The same was due to Minnie’s estranged husband, Al, whose kryptonite (beautiful, money-grubbing women) had left him with only a run-down mobile home. But did Minnie’s foolish, cash-strapped family really have it in them to commit a crime this grisly? Or is there a larger, far more sinister scheme at work?

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This was my first time to read one of Joe Lansdale’s books. Sugar on the Bones is #13 in Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard series, and while I was able to follow along pretty well, I’m sure I missed a lot of backstory in those first twelve books. I’d suggest starting at the beginning.

Hap and Leonard could have taken a job for Minnie Polson. But she apparently didn’t like their style, so she declined to retain their services. Next thing they hear, she’s dead. Burned to a crisp in a fire set with a purpose. Even though Minnie was never their client and was no longer alive to pay them even if she had been, they feel some kind of obligation to follow through on the case. The trail leads them to Minnie’s hard-done-by ex, Al, and a whole mess of trouble.

I’m not quite sure how to categorize this book. A little bit noir, a little bit off-beat humor, a lot of sarcasm, plenty of Texas color, and enough fart jokes to satisfy almost any 12-year-old boy, it’s not your normal detective fiction! Hap and Leonard may seem like an unlikely duo – Hap, a white East Texas boy who’s done some time, and Leonard, a gay Black Vietnam vet. They’re friends. They poke fun at each other, but you know they’ve got each other’s backs, and neither will let the other go alone into danger.

The characters were colorfully drawn, from our heroes to Hap’s wife Brett (who’s really the brains of their marriage – I liked Brett!) to Minnie’s ex Al, who seems like his lack of funds might give him a genuine motive to have done Minnie in. But come on – a guy who lives in an absolute dump of a trailer and is as upfront and genuine about the sad state of his affairs as anyone could be isn’t likely to be hiding a criminal side, is he? I was particularly entertained by the relationship Al had with the mice living in his couch. There’s Vanilla, a gorgeous woman who’s also a stone-cold assassin and an almost comically good shot, and Veil, whose relationship with Hap isn’t clearly defined but is clearly one that has them on good terms.

Hap and Leonard and their associates often find themselves in situations calling for violence, and Lansdale doesn’t shy away from describing the action in detail that sometimes left me a little queasy. The older I get, the less I seem to like vividly brutal fight scenes. If you share my sentiment, you may turn those pages a little faster, too.

Overall, the story was a lot of fun. Hap and Leonard are a crime-solving duo that’s easy to cheer for, and Brett does her best to keep them on an even keel. I have boys, so I’m in favor of fart jokes. If I skip past the violent bits, I enjoy the rest of the story just fine – enough that I plan to read the series to get Hap and Leonard’s history. Sugar on the Bones may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but if it sounds like it could be your shot of whiskey, give it a read!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joe R. Lansdale is the author of nearly four dozen novels, including Rusty Puppy, the Edgar-award winning The Bottoms, Sunset and Sawdust, and Leather Maiden. He has received nine Bram Stoker Awards, the American Mystery Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the Grinzane Cavour Prize for Literature. He lives with his family in Nacogdoches, Texas.

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One Response to Book Review and Giveaway: Sugar on the Bones by Joe Lansdale

  1. Your review helps a lot because like you, I’m interested in the series but not sure if I can jump in here or not. Sounds like readers get a good enough snapshot of the main characters to be interested in learning more. That’s great! Thanks for the tea or whiskey warning!

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