by Mark Rapacz
Kindle Edition, 332 pg.
Fahrenheit Press, 2017
Read: February 21 – 23, 2019
“Spit it out,” I said. I was hoping for an apology, or something. Not every day your best friend is pretty sure he wasn’t going to kill you, which means he was equally as sure he was going to–I think. Semantics were never my strong suit, but when speaking the language of death, these things matter.
J. J. was having a perfectly okay day–he was out getting some supplies for the week, walking around the small Midwestern town he was calling home, when his childhood best friend arrives without pomp or circumstance. This was not a happy reunion–the reason they hadn’t seen each other for years because J.J. was on the run from the Jersey crime family they both worked and killed for; and Jackie’s presence meant that J.J.’s hiding spot was blown and that Jackie had been sent to kill him. So much for that good day.
Not really a spoiler: Jackie doesn’t kill him, or the book would’ve been much shorter than it is. Instead, he aligns himself with his old friend and partner to survive. Almost immediately, it becomes clear that their former boss has expected Jackie to not follow through on things and sent in a ringer to clean up. It’s not long at all before J.J. has to abandon the home he’d made for himself, the life he was on the verge of building and a woman he might love (or not like terribly much–it’s one of those things), to voyage down the Mississippi with Jackie and a couple of allies.
Shortly after that, this stops being a story about a couple of hitmen trying to retire and becomes a tale of vengeance and blood. Lots of blood.
Rapacz has a dynamite style — it’s slick, it’s fast, it’s full of black humor. And despite some distaste I had for J.J. and his personal life and vocabulary, I really got into it. As Jules Winnfield reminds us, “Personality goes a long way,” and this novel has personality by the bucket.
Somewhere along the trek down the The Big Muddy, I think you can argue that Rapacz let his style run away with him and parts of the book become too much. At the same time, some of the best moments of the novel — not just stylistically, but plot and character-wise, are in the middle of this excess. So what do I know?
I didn’t end up liking it as much as I started off liking it — and that might be me, it might be Rapacz, maybe a bit of both. There were some real surprises, some moments of head scratching, and some great tension — and a fight scene or two that will burn themselves into your mind’s eye for at least a week. Which, given the fact that the title is about a castration device, is about what you should expect, right?
A Burdizzo For A Prince might not be your cup of tea — or you’ll love it — but you won’t forget this anytime soon.