Corrine Tedros stands to inherit an assload of money. Her husband is the favorite nephew of childless soda magnate Stanley Tedros, a local legend in Magnolia Beach, SC. Thing is, Stanley shows no signs of dying soon and he’s quite vocally made it clear that he sure as shit ain’t no fan of Corrine’s, rightly sizing her up as a sexpot opportunist. Fearing Stanley might have the sway with her husband Buddy to get her kicked out of the family before she can collect, Corrine takes action, hiring shady-ass lawyer Raychard Balen to set up a hit on him. Of course, nothing goes as planned and soon former homicide dick turned patrolman Ben Decovic is sniffing around this sensational small town murder.
Lynn Kostoff is pretty much fucking peerless to the Nerd at this point. Earlier this year I read his first novel A Choice of Nightmares (recently reprinted by New Pulp Press) and soon afterward his second, The Long Fall. Late Rain, Kostoff’s third novel, has now been published by Tyrus Books and, as much as I straight-up fucking loved the first two, I think it’s his best book yet.
Kostoff’s approach to storytelling is leisurely, yet never less than completely involving. He sets up his cast beautifully, letting us into Corrine’s pitiless worldview and making us feel her frustration at being so close to what she feels she deserves but not quite there. Kostoff fills us in slowly on what makes up Ben Decovic, a good cop for whom recent personal tragedy has robbed of ambition, the Tedros murder eventually becoming his shot at redemption. Jack Carson, a witness to Stanley’s murder, has a brain too foggy from Alzheimer’s to be any real good to Decovic’s (unofficial, seeing how, you know, he’s a fucking patrolman) case, the chapters from his viewpoint quietly effective at evoking what it’s like to have the disease. Also of note is the detached style of the Croy Wendall chapters, the low-rent hitman’s Aspberger’s-like condition shining through his many violent (or just fucking violently awkward) interactions.
Though the novel is often funny and the story, with its femme fatales and hitmen and dogged cops, may at first seem like classic noir shit, Late Rain is hardly anything typical of the genre. Kostoff is rightfully known for balancing his character-driven “literary” style (I wish there was another term to describe it but there isn’t, so we just fucking deal, right?) with the basic pleasures of genre shit, but here I think it’s his most successful blend (Jesus Christ, it’s like I’m talking about fucking fancy-ass coffee roasts or some shit) to date. Never was the page where I felt a description or character-based tangent was too fanciful or “writerly,” and on the other hand I never had any qualms with the plot, the events both complex and seemingly organic at the same time (now I’ve moved onto yet another aisle in fucking Whole Foods, apparently).
Late Rain is a rich, painful and moving novel that’s willing to get down-and-fucking-dirty when it counts. This is a book of great ambition and intense intimacy at once, an experience that will make you feel and hurt yet you’ll rocket through the fucker all the same. To say you can’t lose is to be too cynical. No, instead I’ll say this: With Late Rain every-fucking-body wins.