Home > Book Review > Book Review- Beautiful, Naked & Dead

Book Review- Beautiful, Naked & Dead

It can be hard writing book reviews some times even if it is for a book you loved. Ultimately it’s worth it though. I get the satisfaction of having produced something and every once in awhile I get something out of it, like being turned onto the works of a new writer. That’s what happened several months back when Josh Stallings approached me  about his debut novel, “Beautiful, Naked & Dead.” Stallings believed that because I was a fan of Charlie Huston’s work I would like his work as well. I just finished Stallings’ first novel and I had to say he was absolutely right “Beautiful, Naked & Dead” was a hell of a debut novel.

The protagonist of the novel is a big man named Moses McGuire. He’s extremely good in a fight, but that’s because he’s been fighting his entire life. When we first meet him the mental scars from all that fighting are starting to be too much and he’s considering suicide. A panicked phone call from his one and only friend makes him reconsider. He then heads to the strip club where he works as a bouncer to try and help his friend. A chance encounter with some vicious thugs though causes him to miss the meeting with his friend and when he goes to find her he discovers she’s been horribly murdered.

That death triggers something in Moses. It sends him racing across California and Nevada in a desperate quest to find and destroy his friend’s killers. During his search he uncovers a web of violence connecting the mob, internet porn, and federal agents. As we the readers accompany Moses we uncover what makes him tick and why he is the man he is.

In Moses, Stalling has a deeply flawed and fascinating hero. He’s haunted by a life time of violence. It’s made him a suicidal, alcoholic who consumes speed to stay awake on long journeys. He’s a deeply loyal guy though who’s true to his word and guided by righteous fury. As a reader you root for Moses in his quest to slay both the bad guys and his personal demons.

Along the way you also meet a variety of interesting supporting characters like the strippers that dance at the club where Moses works. Piper was my favorite; a fierce red head who tries to be a friend to Moses. Other interesting supporting players include a laconic street thug named Gregor and Leo, a veteran soldier for the Chicago mob.

Moses’ interactions with these and various other characters are often funny, tragic, powerful, or exciting depending on the nature of the scene. Stallings shifts between these moods expertly and paces his novel just right. And like the best crime fiction you get an ending that make you feel that you really took a long and meaningful journey with a character. I look forward to taking more journey’s with Moses McGuire too. I recently picked up Stallings’s second Moses McGuire novel, “Out There Bad” and look forward to reading it.

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