CROSSED BONES By S.W. Lauden

Down & Out Books
May 1st, 2017

 
S.W. Lauden is having fun.

After he debuted in 2015 with the excellent BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, which stars punk rocker-turned cop Greg Salem, Lauden has constantly changed up his formula. Where the Greg Salem series is a hard-hitting punk concoction of California grit, sunshine, music, and murder, his excellent Tommy & Shayna Crime Capers operate on a different level.

For those that missed out on Tommy and Shayna’s debut in 2016’s CROSSWISE, it boils down like this: Tommy Russo is an ex-cop living in Florida. He’s down in the dumps after the murder spree that happened at the old folks home that he was working security at. His sexy ex-girlfriend Shanyna Billups still has her claws in his heart, and he would do anything to get her back. Shayna is clever, conniving, relentless when it comes to getting what she wants. While CROSSWISE focusses on Russo reinventing himself from NYC tough guy cop to paunchy Florida security guard, CROSSED BONES is really Shayna’s story.

Lauden uses this installment to really flesh out his traditional femme fatale. Shayna still has her feminine wiles, and uses them at every opportunity. But now we get a better look inside her head and get to see just how formidable she is. Shayna is working at a New Orleans watering hole when she learns of the legend of Captain Aurora and his cache of stolen loot. A tale is just a tale, until Shayna discovers a portion of the map. “X” may in fact mark the spot, but she needs the rest of the map to do it. Leaving destruction in her wake, Shayna grabs a shovel and heads to North Carolina. Shayna is on the move, plotting and scheming as she works her way up the coast.

Russo isn’t doing so great. He’s a shell of a man, spending his time living on his friend’s boat, drinking, and getting fat. After a moment of clarity, he accepts the fact that he needs to be with Shayna. With his pal Mikey in tow, Russo treks out to find the one person he can’t live without. They head off in Mikey’s monster-sized monster truck, fueled by energy drinks and gas-station meat snacks.

Novellas are a tricky thing: they’re longer than a short story, yet shorter than a novel. The limited page count makes every page precious. There is no room for fat, only lean narrative. The reader can see the Lauden’s growth with the format from the first book to the second. He storytelling is stronger and the pacing moves at a faster clip. Shayna also makes for a much more interesting protagonist on this go-a-round. Reading her adventures is like reading the very best Catwoman comic-book. Smart, sexy, and will stop at nothing to get the loot.

That’s our Shayna.

Lauden is clearly playing with every trope in the drawer with this series of novellas. With ever nod, wink, and smile that he sends through the page to the reader, you know he’s having an absolute blast with this series.

 

Dan Malmon