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Top Mysteries Challenge review: Stick by Elmore Leonard

Year of publication: 1983
Series and no.: Ernest "Stick" Stickley, 2/2
Genre: Thriller, criminal story
Setting & time: Florida, USA, 1980s

Ex-convict Ernest “Stick” Stickley comes to Florida and ends up being nearly offered up as sacrifice when a major narcotics wholesaler and his supplier square up over a deal gone wrong. He isn’t too upset about his friend who got killed instead of him, but wants the money he was promised in exchange for delivering a deadly package, and a guarantee that the bad guys will stop trying to kill him.

Can you say “Gary Stu”? I can, and his real name is Ernest Stickley, Stick to his friends. Stick is too perfect: extremely attractive to women (2 1/2 in one night...), cool under fire, always knows how to handle any situation, smart, and lucky when it comes to things like being in the right place at the right time. In fact, there seems to be no end to his abilities: near the end it wouldn’t have surprised me if he has suddenly exhibited an ability to fly like Superman. The main villain is a much more interesting character than Stick, as is the wannabe-wise-guy yuppie who employs him, while the other villain is as flat a stereotype of a Latino drug kingpin as anyone can imagine. But then this isn’t a character driven story – it is very much plot driven and the characters are merely there for the ride.

The plot is a loose series of interconnected events that slowly bring the reader and Stick towards a resolution, but rather then being about a man hell-bent on revenge, it is more a matter of Stick sort of drifting into a position of being able to get, by crooked means, what he feels he is owed, rather than consciously working towards getting there. But when he finally does take action, it is swift and sharp and brings about an explosive climax to the story.

Despite the flaws, this is a very readable novel, thanks to Leonard's smooth storytelling style and use of language. I will definitely be putting Leonard down on my list of authors I would like to read more books by.

Rating: 3 stars.

Books left in challenge: 75
Place on the list(s): MWA # 67
Awards and nominations: None I know of

P.S. Isn't that just about the most luridly coloured cover you have seen? Pure 80s, reminds me of Miami Vice.


George said…
I've read just about all of Elmore Leonard's fiction. GET SHORTY might be his best book (I liked the movie, too). Leonard's style is unique. But, as you point out, plotting is a little loose.
George said…
I also picked up a copy of Nancy Pearl's BOOK LUST TO GO: RECOMMENDED READING FOR TRAVELERS, VAGABONDS, AND DREAMERS. Terrific! If you like travel books, this is a must-buy!

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