I haven't had this much fun with a book in a long time, and I doubt the author has either.
Brandon Zuern's pulp-novel smoothie throws the hard-boiled detective fiction of the 1930s and 40s in the blender with the bizarre, sensational camp of sci-fi pulp from the same era, and the result is a smooth but stout little page-turner (I guess really more of a "page-slider" on my Kindle iPhone app), a throwback to the escapist fun of yesteryear.
When I read the premise the first time, I was worried that the writer would rely too heavily on the gimmicky-sounding hook and associated elements that have been ripe targets for decades, but fortunately that was not the case. The sometimes-goofy substance never overpowers the style used to execute it. Zuern's tough, terse prose is sharp and well-crafted, and like the story itself, finds a nice balance by poking fun at genre tropes while paying homage at the same time. It's clear the writer did his homework and has spent time immersed in old pulp novels, and the result is a book that's in on the joke but still respectful of the source material. Thank god this smoothie lacks the aftertaste of smug, self-satisfied irony.
I don't want to give away too much, so I'll just say it's the story a hard-luck detective who gets a seemingly banal case and ends up way, way, over his head. It may start like many a detective story, but it sure doesn't end like one. The plot is solidly crafted and stays gripping, even when things dip into the absurd, and has a great twist ending. I didn't catch the first Sam Truman book, but I never felt lost reading this one.
I'm far too busy to read as many books as I used to, so the compact length of this story was a plus too, and the compact price should make this a no-brainer for anyone. Genre and pulp fans will catch the little nods (e.g. each chapter is named after a different classic science-fiction film), but the story and writing are fun and entertaining enough for any casual reader.
Overall, I'm very impressed with Mr. Zuern's debut and will definitely check out anything he puts out in the future.