There will be blood, plenty of it, but this entertainingly breezy thriller will have you laughing more than crying. Thunder Storme is a riff on the contemporary rural noir, leaning toward, or maybe even creating, a see the funny side subset. When it comes to the hard edges this novel benefits from an unsentimental approach to characters and the odd unexpected demise is enlivening. Very occasionally the narrative errs towards purple prose or over rich imagery but not often.
‘Phantasmagoric nightmares split the darkness in my head. Black dreams, the kind that crept in on cloven hooves, ran through my head.’
Mostly, its gritty and spare, a little playful, but fully on point.
Chick and Wyatt have earned a break, a bit of R&R on Lake Truman, Missouri. It’s so peaceful Wyatt is considering buying land and settling down here. Jacob Gallagher “generously” lent them his cabin and his boat for a spot of easy fishing. Then the shooting starts. A woman comes tearing past in a motorboat, hair floating behind her in the wind, bullets flashing past her head in the opposite direction. She weaves around a bend as a second boat comes into view, two guys, guns blazing in hot pursuit. They spy Chick and Wyatt as they shoot past. Only pretty soon it occurs to them they just passed two witnesses so they come back. Now Chick and Wyatt are being hunted, with no idea whether the girl went to the bottom of the lake or escaped but it’s about all about self preservation now. Fortunately, this isn’t their first rodeo. Needless to say, they survive, the attackers not so much, but Gallagher’s boat is a goner and they feel guilty about that. Like two drowned rats they walk back to town where the local law enforcement are sceptical of their account of the morning’s events.
After a police search one of the shooters washes up, he’s got priors including an attempted murder charge that didn’t stick, that still doesn’t incline the local law to their side. Wyatt Storme, former NFL legend and ex-secret service pal Charles ‘Chick’ Gaston, (assassin), have just walked into the middle of some local trouble they’d be happy to forget – fat chance. The plot thickens when the girl from the speedboat, Katie, turns up at their cabin. Coincidence, not, she’s Jacob Gallagher’s niece, the offer of the cabin wasn’t so altruistic after all, the old man kind of figured Katie might need some help and these boys are qualified. So maybe they don’t need to apologise for the boat RIP after all. Katie isn’t particularly forthcoming about the mess she’s in but she says the law’s no good, she doesn’t trust them or the people behind them. Katie just needs the two guys to hide her, buy her some time to think things out. It’s obvious to Chick and Wyatt that the shooters were hired guns, Katie has upset some powerful people. She got something they want, something she stole, something even more valuable than the money she took and robbers don’t like being robbed, the irony is lost on them. So they’re all in the cabin, a cosy fireside chat, when the shooting starts again, heavy weapons this time. Blood spills, the cabin is wrecked. Now the local law really have it in for Chick and Wyatt so they get a feisty out of town lawyer to watch their backs. Leigh is more than a match for the gnarly old local law clique. Everyone seems to have an angle in this game so the only way to really get from under is for Chick and Wyatt to figure it out for themselves. People are going to get hurt – bad.
Thunder Storme is a stylishly written pulp fiction, a twisty plot with fun characters, the Dixie mafia, villains galore, local corruption and plenty at stake. A riot of a read.
Review by Paul Burke
Brash Books paperback, ISBN 9781952138058, out now.