Book Review: Shooting Lessons by Lenny Kleinfeld
Kleinfeld's newest Chicago-based crime thriller takes the safety off
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., April 5, 2019
Don't let's confuse fiction with reality and suspect for a moment that the American Gun Association in Lenny Kleinfeld's new novel Shooting Lessons is based on or inspired by the National Rifle Association.
What do those boilerplate disclaimers say in the fine print at the beginning of novels? Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental?
Yes, let's go with that – the better to keep any IRL right-wing out-of-my-cold-dead-handsers from going, how you say, ballistic.
But, more to the point: All resemblance between this third in Kleinfeld's trilogy of books that feature Chicago cops Mark Bergman and John Dunegan and a damned good read is intentional – and perfectly executed.
When a young man whose father was murdered while working an urban rideshare gig gets caught up in the machinations of a would-be Svengali of new-media manipulation who's currently working his diabolical PR schemes for the abovementioned NRA clone – and there's a mysterious serial killer continuing to target drivers of that rideshare program – media darling Bergman and old flatfoot Doonie have their detective work cut out for them in more-than-bite-sized chunks.
This latest Kleinfeld spectacle of crime and violence is no less a clever, culturally aware, and entertaining adventure than the first two tales about Bergman and Doonie. It's got that arch yet friendly narrative voice guiding you along with snarky, well-informed confidence; it's got interior glimpses into the motivations of the heroes and villains and ordinary citizens tangled up in the plot's intricacy; it's got what we've come to expect (and be delighted by) from this still-ain't-been-produced screenwriter who "went on a business trip to Los Angeles 30 years ago and never returned."
But the game's been upped a bit here, too. Maybe, having treated however many Hollywood scripts since the last novel, Kleinfeld has honed the knife of his authorial talents even sharper? Or maybe it's simply due to the sockdolager of a situation that he's arranged for this latest story? But even more than Shooters and Chasers or Some Dead Genius, this Shooting Lessons is what promo blurbs would call "taut."
As in, "A taut tale of multiple murders and dire manipulation!" As in, this latest one grabs you by the shirtfront and drags you through its dark and increasingly blood-spattered shenanigans like something engineered for max adrenaline and engagement.
Hell, isn't that why they're called thrillers?
We'll tell you that this is a fine example of one of those, sure enough. But, because we also really like those two cops that Kleinfeld can never show us enough of, we'll also nudzh the author: Don't stop now, man – when's the next one?
Shooting Lessonsby Lenny Kleinfeld
Niaux-Noir Books, 306 pp., $15