Toxic Relationship takes place in the Austin suburb of Pflugerville, Texas. It’s the story of Nick Sibelius, a down-and-out private detective hired to find the missing daughter of a local pastor. Instead, he stumbles into a vat of messy intrigue. Junior, a local farmer, has turned his property into an illegal toxic waste dump. People who stumble onto his land have a tendency to disappear. Of course, the plot isn’t that simple. Along the way Nick contends with a host of bad guys, not so bad guys, and a beautiful woman with toxic secrets of her own. There are also kidnappings, “The Rupture” (you just have to read it), clues, gun fights, car chases, more clues, car crashes, deadly fires, Nick’s unusual office assistant, and evil dentistry. Intrigued? You should be.
Toxic is more than standard crime-fiction fare. First, it’s funny. Not grab-your-gut-and-roll-over-laughing funny, but a comfortable shade of subtle, light humor that makes you crack a smile or snort every few pages. Most of Toxic’s laughs are courtesy of Junior, a “good ole’boy” gone bad. Anyone who has lived in rural America knows a Junior. I know several and can recommend the novel for Junior’s antics and internal
Hacker doesn’t present Junior, or anything about rural Texas, with stereotypical disdain. He treats Central Texas like a relative, perhaps like a well-intentioned half-brother you love but also know is nuts. You love him, craziness and all. If you’ve ever spent time in Texas, and love it like I do, you’ll catch yourself nodding and smiling as Hacker masterfully weaves his plot through the cultural fabric of the Lone Star State. In fact, I wish he would have injected more Texas flavor into the novel, but I suppose he’s saving it for the Nick Sibelius books to come.
Toxic Relationship reaffirms my belief that anything by Richard Hacker is a safe bet. It’s a smart novel chocked full of great characters and light humor. With full Texas flavor, Toxic Relationship is anything but toxic and recieves 87 out of 99 cents.
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