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by Chris Haslam
Abacus, June 2005
352 pages
ISBN: 0349118396

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When an American businessman called Eugene Renoir saves Martin Brock from Moroccan justice, Brock does not know quite what to expect when he flies to America to work for his saviour. Once there, he quickly finds a cunning criminal enterprise, falls in love with a woman who lives in the same trailer park and seems to have absconded with a lot of cash, as well as running into her boyfriend, who has a lot of guns and is plotting revenge. It makes for a lethal combination.

Told in the first person, ALLIGATOR STRIP is a humorous and enjoyable tale, but one that will not be to everyone's tastes. Haslam's novel falls straight into the hardboiled category, offering guns, violence and an anti-hero who likes nothing more than to get hopelessly drunk and stoned, as well as taking all manner of other illegal drugs.

That said, Martin Brock is, in fact, an appealing character. His wry comments and odd behaviour, such as carrying a woman's handbag, make him very different from the traditional, strait-laced heroes that we tend to see in modern novels.

Haslam creates a neat interaction between Brock's British culture and Renoir's American life. He brings in the necessary cultural references common to Florida, such as the trailer parks and hurricanes, as well as throwing in some traditional redneck/cult-like behaviour, such as speaking in tongues and the handling of snakes. The Florida that he creates is gritty and at times, unpleasant, but it makes for a very vivid picture.

From the very start of the book, it appears that Brock is on a hiding to nothing, and that any of his criminal enterprises are destined for failure. He is simply not going to be one of life's success stories. Despite this, his trials and tribulations make for good reading and even as the conclusion becomes apparent and inevitable, the reader will still be urging Brock on. ALLIGATOR STRIP is a funny, pleasant read, despite the main character's seeming unattractiveness.

Reviewed by Luke Croll, August 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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