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Cries of the Lost
By Chris Knopf
The Permanent Press
Reviewed by Karl Wolff
When you marry someone, it is assumed that you know this person and know their past. That isn't always the case. Cries of the Lost by Chris Knopf follows the misadventures of former market researcher Arthur Cathcart and his sidekick Natsumi Fitzgerald. The sequel to Dead Anyway, Arthur has to answer a new question. Instead of "Who killed his wife Florencia?", the new question is, "Who was Florencia?" (It should be noted that reading the first novel in the series is not necessary to enjoying Cries of the Lost. Knopf fills in enough information from the previous novel to keep the reader up to speed.)
The previous novel left Arthur wounded and in a coma. This time he is back using his skills as a market researcher to find out the true story behind his wife's murder. She was from Chile, good with numbers, and ran an insurance agency. Without giving spoilers, Cries of the Lost reads like a madcap mashup of Elmore Leonard, Roberto Bolano, and the confidence schemes from Ocean's Eleven. Arthur and Natsumi track down the true identity of his late wife using disguises, clandestine surveillance tech, and globetrotting to exotic locales in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Like a well made cocktail, Cries of the Lost succeeds with its perfect proportional admixture of elements. Witty dialogue, exciting car chases, and digging into the anguished histories of Spain and South America combine to create a rollicking entertainment.
During my random dips into the Permanent Press catalog, I have read two previous novels from Chris Knopf. This is his second series he's done with the Permanent Press, the first being the Sam Acquillo Hamptons Mysteries. (I read and reviewed Black Swan, the fifth book in the series on my own blog, The Driftless Area Review.) I have also read his standalone novel, Elysiana. Knopf's professional background includes time spent working in PR and as an advertising copywriter. This shows in his authoritative command of Arthur as the market researcher. Despite the exotic locales and action scenes, Arthur seems believable as a human being. Creative writing teachers say, "Write what you know." Aspiring writers know, "Write what you know and then turn it up to eleven." Not many people want to read about the mundane daily life of a market researcher. I'm sure more people want to read about a wounded former market researcher, just out of a coma, getting chased by former goons from Franco's dictatorship, at the same time evading getting caught by US law enforcement.
Chris Knopf gets accolades for consistent, reliable writing. Usually not the terms one uses in book reviews, especially for a book with literary chops. But if you pick up a book by Chris Knopf, more often than not, it will be well written, entertaining, and probably funny as hell. Cries of the Lost is that odd beast: the literary beach novel.
Out of 10/8.5
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