Book: “Fun & Games,” by Duane Swierczynski

I knew without a doubt that I would love “Fun & Games” (June 2011). I’d already read three other books by Duane Swiercyznski, all action-packed and very twisted in a fun-funny way. “Fun & Games” fit right in with the rest, and satisfied all my expectations. As I expected.

Charlie Hardie, an tough but damaged ex-cop with a lot of personal demons, has spent the last three years house-sitting all around the country. Someone pays him to watch their house while they’re gone, usually a few months, and he spends the time getting drunk, watching classic movies, and basically vegging out. Something happened three years ago that threw him into a deep, deep funk. (Obviously, we’re gonna learn what happened.)

His latest gig takes him to a swank house in the Hollywood foothills. But somebody beat him there–an actress named Lane Madden who, that morning, was nearly killed by a secret guild of assassins known as The Accident People. They conduct their hits like it’s a film production, with everything scripted out and a believable narrative. Very obsessive in that way.

Lane, who escaped and took refuge in this house, initially thinks Hardie is one of Them. But then they find themselves under siege, with a three-person team of The Accident People surrounding the house.

And it goes from there. It’s a little bit madcap, quite unpredictable, always fun. Movie references abound. A perfect melding of plot, characters, and locale.

Out of the blue, Swiercyzynski throws in a brief chapter which he titles “Interlude with Mildly Famous Killers.” We’re now in Barstow, Calif., and the first line reads, “The psychopaths came out of the desert, looking for some breakfast.” They take control of a quickstop, apparently aiming to kill the few people inside. And then we go right back to Charlie and Lane…knowing that, somehow, we’re going to be reunited with those psycopaths, but not having any clue as to how it will happen.

During the course of the book, we learn Lane Madden’s backstory (involving Blonde Viking God) and why she’s being targetted. And, of course, we learn what scarred Charlie Hardie.

I’ve been a fan of Swiercyznski for several years, since reading “Severance Package,” a very unique book set almost entirely in a claustrophic office suite and involving some kind of government killers who are being decommissioned. Later I read “The Wheelman,” and more recently, the quirky “The Blonde.” Nobody creates plots and premises like Swiercyznski. He’s a one-of-a-kind.

“Fun & Games” is entirely in that vein, except that it’s book one of a planned trilogy. There comes a point, a ways from the end, where I go, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming.” Then the book ends with another surprise, and we’re all set up for the next book, which is called “Hell and Gone.” It’s available now, published in October 2011. I’m not sure I can wait very long.

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