Lawrence Block is back with his second Hard Case Crime novel, and holy shit — it’s a masterpiece. A pair of con men, Doug Rance and Johnny Hayden (our narrator), put together the perfect long con with the perfect inside girl, Evelyn Stone, our title character. The con is elaborately built up. Just when things are going great, they fall to pieces. And then things turn to complete shit.
I don’t want to give too much away because this book’s a true pleasure to read from start to finish. This is going to be a short review, but don’t let that fool you into thinking there’s nothing to say about this book. Block likes to wallow the reader in the seemier side of life and he’s damn good at what he does. This book could easily stand up to a second reading to pick up on nuances and clues you probably missed the first time around.
A common trait in Block’s narrators is their humanity. They may be scoundrels and crooks, but they’ve got dreams too. Underneath the gruff exterior is a real desire to live the American Dream. But because of who they are, you know before they do that it can never be possible. The characters are so well drawn and likable you find yourself rooting for them in spite of yourself. You want the innocent dupe to get fleeced. Except, of course, in Block’s world there’s no such thing as innocent.
This is what a crime thriller should aspire to be. I knew after The Colorado Kid that I’d be picking up the rest of the Hard Case Crime novels, but after reading The Girl With The Long Green Heart, I immediately ordered the first three books in the series (this was actually the second Hard Case Crime novel that I read). It will be a tall order for any of the rest of the books to equal or exceed this one.