The last time we saw Idaho bounty hunter Jake Tapper, his wife Janine, and his gun-running sister Frankie, they were walking away from a deadly encounter with some of the richest and most powerful men in Idaho. That story was told in Boise Longpig Hunting Club.
Top of Jake’s to-do list is to retrieve his daughter and get the hell out of Dodge. But when you are responsible for the violent deaths of some of powerful politicians and businessmen, even if it was in self-defence, life is not going to be straightforward.
The scorched wallets and near-melted mobile phones of the men who tried to kill them prove a good place to start looking for insurance against the police and assorted goons who are sure to be hot on their heels. A raid on the home of the president of the hunting club brings up a hostage and potential informant. Unfortunately, Keith Baker is a deadbeat and a dead loss, kicked off the police force for drug use, and since his brain is currently orbiting the stars after ingesting too many hash brownies, he is unlikely to provide much valuable intelligence. All Jake and Frankie can get out of him is the location of a safe house and a garbled warning about a women called Karen, a goddess of death who drives a Mercedes that shoots bubbles.
Rattlesnake Rodeo, like it’s predecessor, is all out action pulp fiction. Narrative momentum is everything and it is the author’s belief that if he keeps the pace of events fast, then readers will be prepared to suspend their disbelief over the more outrageous parts of the novel. For the most part he’s correct, I lapped up the action. Ironically, it’s in the places where Kolakowski slows down in an attempt to add some depth to his novel, either with some character development or description, that interest wavers.
The outlaw streak which runs through the book is enjoyable and fits into its neo-Western vibe. Both Jake, as a bounty hunter, and Frankie, a flat-out criminal, have a cavalier disregard for the law but maintain their own moral code. The novel’s cynicism about big business and politics also reads well in the current climate. I was less comfortable, as a European, with the book’s celebration of the Second Amendment. It’s possible that Rattlesnake Rodeo won’t travel so well outside of the United States for this reason.
Jake and Frankie have her crew to help them out, a loyal and tough bunch who’ll take a bullet for their boss without hesitation. And boy, will there be bullets; the list of those after them is long and includes an ex-prosecutor with her own agenda and a team of bent cops as well as rival smugglers. In best Western tradition, it will all end with a siege of a heavily defended compound.
Rattlesnake Rodeo, is a short book. I finished it over a couple of evenings, and I think it’s closer to a long novella than a novel, but its exactly as long as it needs to be. The concept wouldn’t support anything longer. This is a story to be consumed like vodka or tequila, in quick swallows that burn the back of your throat; this rattlesnake has a bite.