The Two-Bear Mambo – Joe R. Lansdale

Synopsis: In this rollicking, rollercoaster ride of a novel, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine take a break from their day jobs to search for Florida Grange, Leonard’s drop-dead gorgeous lawyer and Hap’s former lover, who has vanished in the Klan-infested East Texas town of Grovetown. Before she disappeared, Florida was digging up some dirt behind the mysterious jailhouse death of a legendary bluesman’s son, who was in possession of some priceless merchandise. To Hap and Leonard, something don’t smell right. With murder on their minds, Hap and Leonard set out to investigate as only they now how . . . chaotically.

“When I got over to Leonard’s Christmas Eve night, he had the Kentucky Headhunters turned way up over at his place, and they were singing “The Ballad of Davy Crockett,” and Leonard, in a kind of Christmas celebration, was once again setting fire to the house next door.”

The Two-Bear Mambo (named from a nature program where two bears get it on) is the third book in the long-running Hap & Leonard series. I am seriously loving these two characters so goddamn much! Their banter is ::chef’s kiss::

This installment begins with Hap stopping by Leonard’s house on Christmas Eve, only to discover that Leonard has set fire to the drug den next door. Again. For the third time. Because of course. Just another day in Texas!

Needless to say, the police are getting fed up with these calls.. even if Leonard does help the drug dealers escape the fire in the end. Police Lieutenant Hanson makes them a deal to avoid jail time – all they have to do is track down his girlfriend who went missing. The same girlfriend who happens to be Hap’s ex, Florida. She was investigating a case in Grovetown that involved a legendary blues musician, undiscovered recordings & a young black man supposedly committing suicide while in jail. Grovetown is notoriously racist & unfortunately the Klan is a constant presence. The locals don’t take kindly to the duo sniffing around their town, asking questions. They do not let Hap & Leonard off easily. Far from it. This is by far the darkest volume yet!

Often Lansdale makes the reader uncomfortable. He isn’t a safe writer. He takes on bigotry & violent racism issues head on. At times, the extreme language could overshadow the storytelling, but it doesn’t. Because it’s JOE FUCKING LANSDALE! With his brilliance at the helm, it never feels gratuitous. There’s an emotional depth to his work that lingers.

Profanity-laced, brutal & dark, yet so goddamn funny. This series will have you cringing one minute & earnestly weeping the next. Arson & ass-whipping & cynical humor!

Since I’m just getting started, there is still plenty more Hap & Leonard for me to get caught up in & this delights me! This has been my favorite installment in the saga, for sure! I am completely invested.

-Holly

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