Hot in December

 

Hot in December appears to be a play on the title of one of Joe R. Lansdale's earlier novels, Cold in July. The titling is likely not coincidental since the film version of Cold in July is expected in mid 2014. However this new novella doesn't seem to have any connection except that it is a superior thriller. Lansdale does have a little fun in connecting other works by using two characters from Leather Maidens and some clever allusions to the Hap and Leonard series. There is also a cute reference to Sunset and Sawdust.

Having said all that, Hot in December is highly readable on its own and one of the author's better suspense tales. Kelly and Tom Chan witnesses a hit-and-run that kills their neighbor. Tom is able to identity the culprit only to find out he is associated with an organized crime network. What ensues is a life and death struggle in which Tom recruits two of his Army buddies, one of them a certified psychopath, to assist him in ridding himself of this menace. As usual, Lansdale runs a tight ship, tying all the loose ends together and making you jump at the right moments. Tom is admirable in his principles and his effort to protect his family. There is less humor than usual in this Lansdale tale but plenty of edge-of-seat moments. My main complaint is that it is too brief at 106 pages. Nonetheless, it would be a good introduction to Lansdale's East Texas world of suspense and violence.