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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Irish noir writer Ken Bruen (The Dramatist, The Magdalen Martyrs, et al.) pays homage to the American Dream in American Skin (entitled, appropriately, after a classic Bruce Springsteen tune), an absolute bloodbath of a crime fiction thriller that centers on an Irishman who participates in a bank heist and is forced to flee to America to outrun the Irish authorities -- and more than a few major-league psychos bent on doing him extreme bodily harm.
Stephen Blake is in way over his head. After unwillingly taking part in a Galway bank robbery in which his buddy Tommy was killed, Blake takes the money and, with the help of his girlfriend, Siobhan, heads to America where he plans to meet up with her in a few weeks. Unfortunately for Blake, the highly irate -- and completely insane -- IRA terrorist who masterminded the bank heist wants his money back. To complicate matters, Blake makes mortal enemies of two of the most frighteningly sociopathic characters to ever hit crime fiction: Sherry, a drop-dead-gorgeous femme fatale who makes Charles Manson look like a boy scout, and Dade, a "pure evil" serial killer obsessed with Tammy Wynette.
Like getting sucker-punched with brass knuckles or kneecapped with a lead pipe, readers will not soon forget American Skin. Bruen's novel is arguably his best work to date; fueled by an inexhaustible supply of Jameson whiskey and just about every illegal narcotic known to man, this unrepentantly sadistic novel is like an out-of-control train that speeds off the tracks -- on the very first page! What comes next is a jaw-dropping existential trek across the surreal and often nightmarish landscape that is American pop culture: from The Simpsons to Charles Bukowski and from crystal meth to The Sopranos. Bruen's latest is a visceral, visionary masterwork; underneath all the graphic bloodshed and drug-induced chaos, however, are deeply profound, darkly poetic themes -- self-determination, redemption, trust, faith, etc. -- that will surely affect everyone who reads this extraordinary and truly unforgettable book. An instant noir cult classic -- bottle of Jameson not included. Paul Goat Allen