Livingston author William Hjortsberg cuts a blood-soaked, crime-fueled swath through 1960s Mexico in his new novel, set “deep in the winter after the Summer of Love.” It’s a creepy, fun and frightening ride.
Laid-back hippie Tod wakes up from his first-ever hit of heroin, covered in blood and in bed with a stabbed hooker. His wife has disappeared with the trio of criminal compatriots who live next door – aging Doc, who quotes Kahlil Gibran; the menacing Shank, who grins “like the label on a poison bottle”; and charismatic Nick, looking like “a youthful Cesar Romero.” He’s left with no money, a battered VW microbus, a stash of pot and a significant chunk of missing memory: Had he stabbed the woman, or was he “the passed-out fall guy” for a violent murder?
He chugs off in Bitter Lemon, resolved to find his wife, who might have been kidnapped by the thugs, and discover what had happened in that cheap duplex in Barra de Navidad.
The hapless hippie turns out to be surprisingly resourceful while tracking down the truth. “I’d searched for the heart and soul of midnight all my life,” Tod reflects. When he found it, “the romantic outlaw trail led straight to Frankie, bled-out on the bed in the other room.”
“A kick-ass thriller that moves through Mexico like a scalded sidewinder,” writes Carl Hiaasen. “As always, Hjortsberg delivers wild surprises, cool chatter, and raw, unforgettable scenes.”
– Kristi Niemeyer