‘Leather Maiden’ by Joe R. Lansdale

  Ignore the title “Leather Maiden” because it’s not what you think.
  There are no sexy ladies dressed in black leather, playing the femme fatale role in Joe R. Lansdale’s newest novel.
  While maybe not in the same league as “The Bottoms,” “A Fine Dark Line” and “Sunset and Sawdust,” this is still a well-written suspense novel with plenty of Lansdale’s dark humor, great characters, hard-core action at the end, and a strong sense of nostalgia that seems to occupy many of the author’s later books.
  What “Leather Maiden” does deal with is Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist and Iraq war veteran Cason Statler, who got fired from his newspaper job in Houston for having an affair with the boss’s wife and step-daughter, and then decides to move back home to Camp Rapture, which is located in East Texas, to be closer to his parents and hopefully to patch things up with his old girlfriend.   
  Unfortunately for Cason, his old girlfriend doesn’t want to fix things with him and threatens to issue a restraining order against him if he doesn’t leave her alone. His new job at the local newspaper sets in motion a string of events that will place him on the trail of a team of serial killers, led by one of the most evil people the author has ever created, and to a final confrontation with the lives of two women that Cason has grown to care about hanging in the balance. And, as good a fighter as Cason is, he won’t be able to do it alone. He’s going to need the help of Booger, a sociopath and natural-born killer who saved his life more than once when they served together in Iraq. This is going to be Booger’s opportunity to pit his skills and training against someone who’s just as good as he is, if not more vicious and cunning.
  What Lansdale has written is a novel filled with pure Texas noir, plenty of mayhem, characters you love and hate, a vivid sense of humor that eases the tension at various places in the story, unspeakable torture (“Leather Maiden” refers to the victim being skinned alive), and a finale that makes you feel there is indeed justice in the universe. Though many of the story’s characters may not be as well developed as others, the author still manages to bring each one to life with a few choice descriptions, especially Cason’s parents and the little girl who lives next door to them, playing Tarzan in his old treehouse, Booger, who even scares Cason at times, Belinda and her braces, the Geek, who made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and the beautiful Caroline, whose disappearance is the catalyst that begins Cason’s journey into the hellish abyss.
  “Leather Maiden” is Lansdale working his mojo as only a great writer can. It’s fun and entertaining, while offering a brief glimpse into one’s own memories of the past. All of Lansdale’s novels during the past several years have touched something deep within me that causes me to yearn for that special place a person calls home. This is certainly Lansdale at his best and is a novel not to be missed by his fans or for those approaching his work for the first time. Highly recommended!   

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