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Esquire
Wednesday, February 28th, 2007
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Lost Echoes: A Novel (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)

by Joe R. Lansdale

What's That Sound?

A review by Snowden Wright

In recent years, the merits of crime noir have been praised, understandably and justifiably, by the likes of Michael Chabon, Patrick Anderson, and Barry Hannah. It would seem that crime noir, a genre so long looked down at by high-minded writers, is due for a literary rebirth. Unfortunately, Joe R. Lansdale's Lost Echoes -- boiled hard and written soft -- is not the book to do it.

Want a few examples why? Well check out the way people die: the neck of a Bible salesman is snapped by a stack of falling Bibles; a mother and her child are pulverized by a dump truck load of gravel; the body of a cross-dressing pink panty-wearing cop is found hanging from a lamp cord. Ironic and amusing, perhaps. But not exactly the sort of plot moments that beg to be taken seriously. And the remainder of the plot is similarly ridiculous. Its protagonist, Harry Wilkes, is a college student who can "hear" visions of past crimes. With the help of an alcoholic martial arts sensei, he soon learns to embrace his extrasensory gifts to solve a gruesome murder.

Not that Lost Echoes doesn't have some redemptive aspects. Its narrative voice, a mix of down-home slang and bar-side ramble, has its charm. And its scenes of psychic flashback violently shock expectations. Are these qualities enough to save it? Not quite. But they're something. And like an imperfect relationship, if you appreciate Lost Echoes for what it is rather than for what it fails to be, you may enjoy it.


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