Having announced their new beginnings with the hardbound publication of a new Lawrence Block novel, the folks at Hard Case Crime have happily recommenced releasing fresh paperback pulps. One of the first of these, Christa Faust’s Choke Hold, is the second in a series featuring Angel Dare, a hard-bitten former porn star on the run from Croatian mobsters. When Hold opens, our heroine is working as a waitress down in Yuma, Arizona, after her WitSec cover has been violently blown. A chance encounter with a former industry flame, Thick Vic Ventura, forces her out of hiding after Vic is gunned down at the diner where she’s been working.
The catalyst for this sudden burst of gunplay turns out to be Vic’s son Cody Noon, a dumb-ass would-be fighter beholden to an Arizona businessman with ties to south of the border extreme fighting and drug trafficking. Teaming up with Cody’s trainer, a somewhat addled former pugilist named Hank “The Hammer” Hammond, Angel comes up against Mexican thugs and also winds up drawing the attention of the aforementioned Croatian mobsters. It all comes together in a high body count set of showdowns that ends in Las Vegas, where the auditions for All American Fighter are being held.
Having not read her debut, I initially wondered how well I’d be able to get into Miz Dare’s sophomore escapade, but Faust’s tough gal heroine and punchy way of delivering her violent plot quickly grabbed this reader. The opening action holds two-thirds of the book, and by the time the Croatians make their appearance I was sufficiently attached to Angel and her punch drunk pals to wonder who would manage to survive this secondary menace. Found myself wanting to go back and read the first book once I’d finished, of course, which is also a testament to Faust’s sexy and damaged narrator — a character who isn’t above using her porn experience to get what she needs even as she recognizes all that she’s lost in doing this. A definite hard case heroine.