Review by Nick Ahlhelm
Christa Faust knows pulp. Her first novel for Hard Case Crime, Money Shot, was a spicy pulp updated for a twenty-first century audience. The sequel to that novel continues the spicy pulp styling of that book while also adding a bit of classic sports pulp tradition as well.
As Choke Hold begins, Faust reintroduces porn star turned talent agent turned vigilante Angel Dare very quickly. It’s important, because within pages she’s back on the run with the son of a former co-star. Cody is a young MMA fighter on the rise, but he’s in with the wrong people. His trainer Hank is in bed with the same criminal group that promotes the local fights in the area.
Angel quickly ends up with both men on the run from the criminal cartel as well as a pair of Croatian assassins bent on killing Angel. Plus a third enemy lurks in the shadows, responsible for the dangers and murders that rip through the fast paced novel.
Angel’s first person narration carries tons of emotional wait without ever slowing the narrative. The book moves at a relentless pace. It moves flawlessly between one action set piece to the next with wild abandon but perfect storytelling.
Ultimately the tale wraps up in Las Vegas as Angel, Hank and Cody try to get the young MMA fighter on a fictionalized version of The Ultimate Fighter. Things don’t go quite as planned though and a lot more blood is shed before book’s end.
Sex and violence are well on display in the novel, perhaps giving it a bit harder edge than classic pulp fiction. But Faust never lets it overwhelm the book. Instead Angel makes her way through her actions rationally, even when they might not be for the best.
The book’s only real weakness is a rather open ending. With this being the sequel to Money Shot, it ends on a note that seems to make it clear that Faust wants to make this a trilogy. While the reader gets an ending of sorts, it is one that leaves an obvious need for her to continue Angel Dare’s tale.
Choke Hold is now available for $9.99 in trade paperback format.