There is no wasted motion in Christa Faust’s new book Choke Hold, the sequel to Money Shot, her 2008 hit for the Hard Case Crime line. The action starts quickly and doesn’t let up, and anyone hoping Faust will take it easy on readers who didn’t read Angel Dare’s first adventure before picking up this one need not hold their breath; the author does fill in the gaps, but in her own time and definitely not at the expense of the story she’s telling this time around.
That’s a good thing – no, that’s a great thing, and as good an example as I can provide of what makes Faust such an exciting, natural storyteller. She expertly weaves in Dare’s backstory and the events from Money Shot so that it’s a driving force of this new story. She could have taken the easy way out, having Dare explain it all in a couple of expository-filled pages to the old acquaintance she bumps into at the beginning of the story, thus bringing him and any new readers immediately up to speed. Instead Faust retells the events and ties them into the new book in such a way that those who haven’t read Money Shot aren’t lost, yet those who have read it aren’t bored.
Like its predecessor, Choke Hold is not populated with nice characters. There aren’t any traditional heroes in the book, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people to root for. Angel Dare is a former porn star, and she’s still willing to use sex as a commodity when the situation is drastic enough. Cody is a talented and rising star in the mixed martial arts world, but his volcanic temper and childlike naivete fail to serve him well in the situation he gets caught up in. Hank is an addled veteran of the fight world who looks like a brute but carries himself like a gentleman. Each has their own heaping helping of issues, but Faust is careful to construct each character so that we quickly see there is more to them than what their past lives or current appearances reveal.
As I said above, the story is quick to get out of the gates and it barely stops for a breather. Every time there’s a pause where the characters (and the readers) think they’re going to have a second to catch their breath, Faust kicks the door in and gets everybody rolling again. Brutal fights, gunplay, and a fair amount of sex – usually at the most inopportune of times – all have their place in Choke Hold.
Anybody who believes that writing about crime or the fight game is strictly “man’s work” needs to be introduced to Christa Faust. She was invited back to Hard Case Crime for a reason; namely, her books will kick your ass just as fast and hard as anything by Elmore Leonard or Robert Parker. Grab Choke Hold off the shelves and see if I’m not right.
Choke Hold is out now from Hard Case Crime and Titan Books. Keep an eye here for an interview with Faust coming later this month.