Right now I’m sorry I missed the first two novels in this series because I really enjoyed Broadribb’s raucous take on the flipside of Florida’s sunshine smile. Lori Anderson is a star; she’s a powerhouse, she used to get messed about but not anymore – let the FBI and the mob bring it on. Now that Christmas is over its time to get back to crime and Deep Dirty Truth is the kind of fun and games that makes for a perfect start to the new year. Blow the cobwebs away with a cracking adventure, non-stop action from the moment Lori is kidnapped and threatened with a bullet to the head by Miami mob capo Giovanni Bonchese.

It all starts with Lori getting bundled her into a van, hog tied and gagged by two hoods. They dump her in a barn, she can’t help thinking this is the end, there are hungry snorting pigs in the background (dinner Hannibal Lector style?). Lori and her family, Dakota and JT, have been through the wringer before! Ten years ago when Lori’s husband Tommy was killed, the mob assumed bounty hunter JT did it. They put a price on his head, somehow he survived a brutal attack but he’s still recovering and little Dakota has been kidnapped and seen more than one man killed. As Deep Dirty Truth opens the family have settled into a new home. That is until one apparently ordinary morning when the van turns up and the ordure hits the fan again.

Bonchese, who incidentally hates cussing but isn’t above torture and murder, has a long memory. It’s taken ten years to catch up with Lori, now he wants vengeance for the wrong she did him. She killed her husband, a vicious wife beating low life, who murdered one of her friends for attempting to phone the police when he was dishing it out with his fists. Of course, Thomas “Tommy” Ford was one of the gang, he was like family to the old man, a son (Bonchese is a sentimental old duffer!). He doesn’t expect Lori to understand their bond so he just hands down an ultimatum. Agree to the proposal and walk away scot free, if she delivers that is, then the debt is considered paid. But fail or refuse and Lori, JT and little Dakota all die. Lori has forty-eight hours to save her family. The FBI have Carlton North, the numbers man for the mob with all their dirty secrets. He has a grudge against the Tallahassee cousins but he can’t be allowed to testify. They want Lori to bring North home. Lori won’t fetch a man to his death but old man Bonchese says North is also like a son and he wants him back in the fold before he does irreparable damage. What choice does she have? She takes the deal. Lori squeezes a contact in the FBI for a location on North, she doesn’t even get a night’s rest before she has to act.

Deep Dirty Truth is a classic slice of Americana from a Brit with an ear for the sassy, clipped dialogue and breakneck pace of the noir genre. Stylish with an original take on the lone wolf/bounty hunter theme. This is a novel alive with tension and intriguing twists. An old fashioned tale with modern sensibilities and a great female protagonist. What starts as the kind of story you’ve seen often in the movies soon acquires it’s own momentum and trajectory. There is a real sense of danger as Lori’s family has to go on the run. Everything the mob told Lori is a lie, as the violence kicks off she is stuck between a rock and a hard place – a life in prison or a hole in the ground courtesy of the mob.

Lori Anderson is full on all hellfire but she has enough smarts to know when to act and when to stay tight lipped. Specially around the condescending violent assholes that keep pointing a gun at her. Resourceful and stoic if anyone has the strength of character and physical resilience to survive long enough to save her family it’s Lori. She’s a tonic in a macho misogynistic world. There’s a good deal of wit at the expense of the complacent, anachronistic, loud mouthed quick-fisted mobsters.

Just a whole hell of a lot of fun.

Paul Burke 4/4

Deep Dirty Truth by Steph Broadribb
Orenda Books 9781912374557 pbk Jan 2019