I thought I had given up on that kind of testosterone-driven crime thriller featuring a drug-addled antihero and a thin plot. This was my go-to in the 90s until my tastes evolved. But Repo Shark, which I culled from a list of unusual crime novels from the indisposable crimereads.com, proved me wrong. And it’s yet another reminder that good writing can paper over a multitude of sins.
The plot is straightforward: guy goes to Hawaii to repossess a motorcycle, things aren’t what they seem, hijinks ensue. But Goodfellow writes it with such sharp prose that doesn’t attempt to condescend the reader, or wink at them with an “Ain’t it cool?” look. His character is a loser. He’s interacting with losers. They do loser stuff. That’s what this book is all about and its biggest strength is never trying to be more than that.
Goodfellow also portrays Hawaii, a place I’ve never been to, as a seedy underbelly of imperial greed and cultural genocide. A lot of plot and dialogue is devoted to the plight of the natives on the islands and how the Afrikaner lead character is suspicious no matter what by virtue of his white skin. It gave poignancy to a story that’s not necessarily looking for some.
And it helped to assist swallowing the hardest part of the story: the lead is an avowed racist and homophobe. Some lines I haven’t seen in a book in years (“Does this make me gay?”) popped up. I stopped halfway through to do a quick search of the author because even though I was enjoying it, I didn’t want to give my attention and support to some alt-right tool. Fortunately, from what I gleaned from Goodfellow’s interviews and works, he seems like a decent fellow who’s keen on how institutional racism affects folks. You wouldn’t know it reading this though so be forewarned. Your mileage may vary.
But if you can stomach those issues, it’s a good book that’s worth your time. I’m definitely going to check out more of Goodfellow’s work.