It’s been more than three years since Christa Faust’s first crime-noir novel, “Money Shot,” appeared on the scene as a Hard Case Crime original publication. That novel told me that Faust was a talent worth keeping an eye on, as was her lead character, Angel Dare. Part of the reason it took so long for the sequel, “Choke Hold,” to come out was because Hard Case Crime went out of business. Her novel, which was scheduled for publication in 2010, was put on the shelf until Hard Case Crime was picked up by Titan Books and the backlog of novels was published one at a time.
Was “Choke Hold” worth the wait? Definitely. Like a lot of male readers, I have a crush on Angel Dare. She’s beautiful, tough, sensitive and refuses to be pushed around.
“Choke Hold” has our heroine on the run. It starts off in Yuma, Ariz., where Angel is working as a waitress. She used to be in the witness protection program but took off when the bad guys found out where she was. She’s working in a diner to get a legitimate-looking passport out of the owner, who has connections in town. All that changes, however, when former co-worker and love interest — Thick Vic Ventura — enters the restaurant to meet his kid for the first time, only to discover Angel there behind the counter. Though Angel doesn’t want to admit it, seeing Vic brings back some good memories, and they make a casual date for afterward.
Everything then changes again when three drugged-out gangbangers enter the diner and start shooting, getting Vic in the process. Before Vic dies, he makes Angel promise to take care of his kid, Cody. Cody has aspirations of being a top martial arts cage fighter, but he has to get to Las Vegas by Sunday morning for his television audition. Unfortunately, the kid has been set up to take the fall for some missing coke, and his boss doesn’t think he’s innocent. Cody has to throw some fights in Mexico and then perhaps all will be forgiven.
If only it were that easy. The bad guys are still after Angel, and Cody’s boss is certainly not a man of his word. A lot of people are going to die. A lot are also going to get lucky, especially Cody’s friend Hank, who Angel has the hots for. After all, Angel used to be a famous porn star, and she does like sex, plus she’s not above using it to get what she wants.
Faust has again proven why she’s the queen of crime noir. There’s no female author writing today who does it better. Faust knows how to create poignant but flawed characters. She also knows how to build tension and end each chapter with a hook that forces readers to continue. It takes a talented author to achieve that with each and every chapter.
So, if you’re after a good crime-noir novel with plenty of sex and violence and suspense, “Choke Hold” is the one to buy. I hope the author will bring Angel Dare back in future books and that it won’t be a three-year wait before the next one.
Wayne C. Rogers is the author of the horror novellas “The Encounter” and “The Tunnels,” both of which can be purchased at Amazon’s Kindle Store for 99 cents each.