Monday, September 29, 2008

Christa Faust - Control Freak & Hoodtown

The first book by Christa Faust that I read was Money Shot, her most recent. I wrote about it at Revish. It is a terrific read, a hard-boiled crime story about a woman wronged and told first person by her.

Faust's two earlier novels, Control Freak and Hoodtown, are have female characters who are tough, comfortable with themselves, and live outside of normal society.

Control Freak 1998.

This is Christa's first novel.

Caitlin McCullough inherited some money which has allowed her to write hard-boiled crime stories without requiring her to have a job to live. Her money is starting to run low and she is thinking that she needs to find something that pays better. She is seeing a NYPD detective, Mike Kiernan, who is considerably older than she. They have great sexual chemistry but she is not looking for love. Mike might be.

She finds out about a gruesome murder including sexual mutilation in the meat packing district from Wilson, a hacker friend. Her friend Mike has just started investigating the same crime. True crime might turn out to be her ticket and with information supplied by her friend, Caitlin figures she can get the jump on any competitors.

The victim is Eva Eiseman and Caitlin learns that she was involved in the sadomasochistic society of New York City. Caitlin begins her investigation at the House of Absinthe, an SM club. Unexpectedly, Caitlin finds herself not unwillingly pulled into the society and, even more so that she appears to be a natural Domina.

Control Freak is explicit about SM and the people who embrace the culture. I would not recommend it for anyone not comfortable exploring alternate lifestyles. I did enjoy it. Faust created interesting characters, situations, and story lines. I'm not going to have myself fitted for leathers and chains but I wasn't bothered reading about people who do.

Faust does get a bit carried away with her similes and descriptions at times but her first novel holds together quite well.

Computers play a part in the story but the book was written before the Internet as we know it. Younger readers might not have heard about bulletin boards (BBS) which predate web sites and blogs. Still, with a minor bit of editing Control Freak could be easily modernized.

Hoodtown (2004)

Hoodtown is a very different story with the exception of another strong female character. Hoodtown is an inner-city neighborhood where the culture is derived from lucha libre, Mexican style wrestling. Everyone is hooded beginning at infancy. Residents are know by the style (gimmicks) of their hoods. The hood is everything and no one would be caught dead without their hoods. Except now they are. Someone is murdering Hoodtown prostitutes and leaving them unmasked. X is a former luchadora who left the ring under a cloud and she decides that she is going to investigate. She has no faith that the Skin detectives are going to put any effort into finding the killer.

Someone wrote that they couldn't get into the story because they couldn't buy into a society where everyone wore hoods and had the legal right to do so. I didn't have that problem, perhaps because I also enjoy fantasy. As with Control Freak, Faust works considerable detail into the story. She goes into the intricacies of always wearing a hood. Want to know how the residents of Hoodtown sleep or wash their hair, it's covered.

In style, Hoodtown is a hardiboiled pulp detective story with snappy dialog and fights built on wrestling techniques. I appreciated the glossary of Hoodtown slang she included since it allowed her to keep the narrative flowing without having to explain terms.

I found the book a lot of fun though I'm not sure who I would recommend it to. If I'm ever near a lucha libre event I'm going to do my best to attend.