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Book Review- “Choke Hold”

The desire for revenge can be a powerful one. Especially if those that wronged you take almost everything away from you. In Christa Faust’s 2008 novel “Money Shot” readers got to see an ex-porn star named Angel Dare get her revenge on a group of criminals that beat her, raped her and left her for dead. It was a very powerful and captivating novel. I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, but in the end Angel got her revenge and on a visceral level it was pretty exciting to read about. What happens after you gain your revenge though? How does it affect you on emotional and psychological level? And what kind of life awaits you after you complete your long bloody journey to revenge? In her latest novel “Choke Hold,” Faust brings Angel Dare back to answer those questions and more. The result is a fast paced, compelling, and ultimately haunting read.

Like “Money Shot,” “Choke Hold” is also a first person narrative from Angel Dare’s point of view.. Angel is a great character with a very interesting perspective. She’s also a very human character and easy to identify with. If “Choke Hold” is your first time meeting Angel you’ll be rooting for her in just a couple of pages, and if you read “Money Shot” you know what I mean and will be happy to reunite with the character in this novel.

In “Choke Hold” Angel is still the same character we know and love. She still has her sense of humor and interesting perspective from her former profession, but she’s quite haunted by what she sacrificed to get her revenge in the previous novel. She’s mourning what she lost of herself.

When the novel begins she’s doing that mourning incognito in a diner in Arizona. The reasons aren’t quite clear at first, but that’s okay because Angel doesn’t have time to explain herself. She’s caught off guard by a former boyfriend who recognizes her. Minutes later that boyfriend is gunned down and Angel is escaping a firefight with the son her lover never knew he had. With his dying breath Angel’s former lover asks her to look after his son.

So Angel has a purpose once again and she sets out fulfill it. Fulfilling that purpose means getting her ex-lover’s son, Cody, to Las Vegas where he has a shot at a television show that would launch his career in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. To get him there Angel will have to navigate a world of underground fighting run by a drug dealing mobster while trying to steer clear of the Croatian gangsters who are hunting her because of what she did in “Money Shot.”

One of the best things about journeying with Angel through this world is the characters she meets. Faust populates “Choke Hold” with an eclectic cast of extremely interesting characters. There are memorable minor characters like a forger that is trying to become a painter and major ones like my favorite supporting character in the book Hank “The Hammer” Hammond. Hank is Cody’s teacher and an expert fighter who’s taken one too many head shots. He’s a larger than life character who made a lot of bad choices in his past, but is trying hard to be good and noble. Faust does an amazing job with the character. In every scene he’s in you get a sense of what kind of life he’s lead and his inherent nobility is pretty moving.

Faust also does a great job pacing the action in “Choke Hold.” The book opens with a burst of violence and you’re off running with the characters. Things slow down occasionally to let you catch your breath and offer up compelling character or plot details, but then you’re off and running again. The action scenes in Las Vegas are especially compelling as Angel, Cody, and Hank desperately try to escape the many enemies that are out for their blood.

Then comes the ending. Again, I don’t like to give spoilers, so all I’ll say is it’s a bloody, haunting, and powerful one. The last chapter especially left me pretty mesmerized.

So “Choke Hold” was a hell of a read. I thought Faust set the bar pretty high with “Money Shot,” but “Choke Hold” is even better. It definitely left me wanting more. So I eagerly await Faust’s next crime novel.

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