Fun and Games (Charlie Hardie #1) by Duane Swierczynski
Publisher: Little, Brown (Mulholland Books, June, 2011)
Charlie Hardie Trilogy
Charlie Hardie, an ex-cop still reeling from the revenge killing of his former partner’s entire family, fears one thing above all else: that he’ll suffer the same fate.
Languishing in self-imposed exile, Hardie has become a glorified house sitter. His latest gig comes replete with an illegally squatting B-movie actress who rants about hit men who specialize in making deaths look like accidents. Unfortunately, it’s the real deal. Hardie finds himself squared off against a small army of the most lethal men in the world: The Accident People.
It’s nothing personal-the girl just happens to be the next name on their list. For Hardie, though, it’s intensely personal. He’s not about to let more innocent people die. Not on his watch.
Fun and Games opens with a bang, like a shotgun blast, and never lets up! Lane Madden, beautiful, rising young actress, is out for a ride on Decker Canyon Road when she sees a pair of headlights behind her. Very close behind her. She begins to suspect she’s being followed and after nearly having an accident, her suspicions turn out to be true, when the “good Samaritan” that stops to help her turns out to be not so good at all.
Charlie Hardie has just arrived in the Hollywood Hills for his next house sitting gig and is just settling in when he discovers Lane Madden hiding in the house, exhausted, scared, and ready for a fight. She’s telling a story about someone trying to kill her that Charlie has more than a little trouble believing, but Lane’s story is true, and the Accident People are coming…
Fun and Games was, well, a hell of a lot of fun! When the action starts, it doesn’t let up, and the twists and turns kept me on my toes the whole way through. Charlie is a man running from his past, and he’s determined to protect Lane from a group that seems to have endless resources at their disposal, and orders from the highest echelons of the Hollywood elite, and beyond. There are a few scenes with the killers in the house that had me grinning hugely, because Charlie ends up getting the better of these people, largely due to good luck, and seeing them get caught off guard by this “house sitter” who they wildly underestimated, was wonderfully entertaining. Charlie’s no ordinary house sitter, and he has some weapons at his disposal that this group doesn’t count on, as well as utter determination to protect Lane at all costs. Lane also has a secret, and may know more about this group, and why they’re after her, then she’s letting on. At first I thought Lane would be a bubbleheaded actress with nothing much to offer the fight, but boy was I wrong. She and Charlie make a pretty damn good team, and you’ll certainly find yourself rooting for them, and for her, in spite of the lingering suspicion that Lane may not be as innocent as she seems. The Accident People are absolutely terrifying, and just the thought of a group like this existing gives me the chills. Fun and Games is a noir thriller that’s absolutely not to be missed, and you’ll want to keep an eye out for Hell and Gone, the next Charlie Hardie thriller, due in October!