The premise is right there on the cover: “Justice Never Sleeps.” The Owl is a man who can’t fall asleep. Sounds a bit like the the idea Lawrence Block used in his series about Evan Tanner, but the execution is entirely different in this series of thriller books.
While Block’s books are breezy and funny, The Owl is deadly serious but great fun. It’s also very much in the style of pulp novels about The Spider and The Shadow. The Owl “wanders the streets stalking his prey, hangs out in all-night diners, and never stays in one place long enough to cast a shadow.”
What the Owl does is get revenge for the people who pay for it. Two years of their salary, whatever that might be, is what he requires. Then he’ll kill whoever you say needs killing if he decides to take the job. “In such cases the law is powerless. The Owl is not.” Not that The Owl doesn’t do a lot of killing of whoever needs it for free. He kills people all the time. It’s best not to irritate him. After all, he suffers from insomnolence. Mike Hammer is a wimp compared to The Owl…who comes back in an action-packed sequel, Scarlet Serenade.
How action packed? I’m thinking that maybe I should let the book speak for itself a little, so here goes:
Baroom! Baroom! Baroom! The Peacemaker roared in .45 basso profundo as my left palm slammed the hammer. The driver’s body went three feet backward without touching the ground and hit asphalt in a heap. What was left of his head landed a good deal further on, as the last vestiges of crimson spray blew away on the dry and dusty wind. The Santa Ana tasted blood — and it howled.
And from later on:
But that was a long, dark decade ago; before Alexander L’Hiboux, reporter, was reborn in a Hell of fire and rage as the ever-deadly, never-sleeping Owl.
And from a few pages later:
“You’re the Owl. You’re an ice-blooded, two-fisted, merciless sonofabitch. You move fast, shoot faster, and never take unnecessary chances. You’ve stayed alive because you stay alone and out of sight. Yet now — all of a sudden, you’ve got the cops, the drug underworld, and probably the FBI on your ass . . . .”
I enjoyed the heck out of this book. It starts off over the top and builds from there. It’s essentially one long chase scene as The Owl acts as bodyguard to a 16-year-old girl whom seemingly everybody in L. A. wants to get his hands on. There’s blood, gore, and action aplenty. Norbert the dead bartender, a great character, makes a return appearance, as does the enigmatic Alcatraz.
Too bad there isn’t an Owl 3… at least not yet.