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The Pawnbroker (Charlie Henry) by Aimée Thurlo and David Thurlo
Cover Artist: Sky by Scott J Photography/Getty Images; gun by Numlaza/Shutterstock
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250027986
Date: 28 January 2014 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Authors' Website / Show Official Info /

Charlie Henry and Gordo Sweeney are good friends who've completed their tours of duty in the Army's Special Ops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now they live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and have recently purchased a business, Three Balls Pawnshop. Unfortunately, its previous owner, the crooked Diego Baza, has destroyed all the sales receipts, especially those pertaining to weapons.

Charlie and Gordo hire a beautiful lawyer friend, Gina Sinclair, to purchase from Baza the keys and combination to a safe containing computer backups of all the store's records. While conducting the transaction, Baza and Gina are mowed down during a drive-by shooting. Determined to learn the shooter's identity and salvage their business, Charlie and Gordo embark on an investigation involving gangs, gangbangers, and many guns. Deception and betrayal abound as the bodies pile up.

David and Aimée Thurlo's The Pawnbroker introduces two new badasses to the noir genre in the debut of what I hope will become an outstanding series. Charlie Henry, a tall Navajo Indian who was raised on a reservation, and Gordo Sweeney, a short, street-wise punk who survived to obtain adulthood in a rough Denver neighborhood, are an odd couple. They are best friends who work well together during car chases, drive-by shootings, and ambushes. Both were highly trained and highly decorated while serving in the military.

A great example of Southwestern noir, The Pawnbroker not only has a lot of thugs and violence, but it also has beautiful women. There is Gina Sinclair who is shot during the opening pages. Her roommate, Sergeant Nancy Madina, who could work as a model, aids Charlie and Gordo's investigation. The attractive Ruth Adams (not her real name) is the damsel in distress who is fleeing from an abusive situation. Her five-year-old son Rene has been thrown into the plot for cuteness.

Do I admire Charlie and Gordo? Are they hero material? They are a little too rough around the edges for my tastes. However, many of the other heroes in my favorite crime novels have also been extremely flawed; they've consisted mostly of lawyers and detectives who struggled with various forms of substance abuse. Charlie still suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He returned from Afghanistan emotionally wounded. Basically, some of the violent deeds he's committed have filled him with shame and guilt. In order to relieve that guilt and make amends, he is desperately fighting to locate Gina's shooter. The authors summarize the reason for Charlie's guilt in the following: "How many ultimately innocent people had he brought before those who would do anything to extract information--useful or not?" He was an accomplice in the torture of young boys and men. He often reminds himself that he was just doing his job.

The short, tough Gordo, an experienced street fighter, is enjoying all the gratuitous violence. Near the end of the novel, he complains about using the Taser in lieu of bullets in order to subdue the villain's bodyguards: "Wish we could just shoot them all and get it over with." Sergeant Nancy Madina sums up Gordo's morbid jocularity quite nicely when she tells him, "You're having way too much fun with this." Oh well, I have no room to judge; I enjoyed the novel's gratuitous violence myself. What does that say about me? I only wish the wars in the Middle East would end and our soldiers return home safely without having their arms and legs blown off. Charlie and Gordo also wish the same.

Speaking of villains, The Pawnbroker has one of the slimiest. He is Lawrence L. Brooks, an investment firm multi-millionaire; he enjoys buying financially struggling companies, laying off their employees, and liquidating their assets. He reminds me too much of a 2012 presidential hopeful who during his campaign, voiced his intentions to cut the federal employees' pay and make them work until they reached seventy. Most men don't make it out of their sixties. Sometimes, I feel I'm not going to make it out of my fifties. However, I think I'll live a long life provided that I eat healthy, exercise regularly and don't antagonize men like Charlie Henry and Gordo Sweeney who know how to shoot a gun. I highly recommend their first case, The Pawnbroker, and pray there will be many more.

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