Ben Rehder’s Gun Shy is a fun romp for the Ritalin-choking child in all of us, dancing around the topic of guns and gun control. It’s the fifth novel in his Blanco County mystery series; and while I haven’t read the previous books, so far as I could tell there’s little or no thread weaving them together besides location and, perhaps, game warden John Marlin; so it’s easy enough to pick up here and not worry about the others.
This comic crime novel revolves around one bad trip by country-western star Mitch Campbell, and his spokesmanship for the National Weapons Alliance. Still, I’d be hard pressed to say the book had any main character. We bounce through a dozen different points of view throughout the book: from a secretary-cum-spy to a former movie star, managers, politicians, officers, rednecks, guerrilla extremists, a cartoonist, and many more. Many of the threads are lightly touched, but we get at least a glimpse of a very interconnected world.
Rehder likes to introduce as much information as possible about a character up frontâ€”often more than I would have liked. The worst example of this, for me, was the first chapter’s introduction of Dale Allen Stubbs, president of the Texas chapter of the National Weapons Allianceâ€”I would have put the book down if I hadn’t set myself the goal of reviewing it. I didn’t care about Dale, and while Rehder began stretching the yarn early, I felt it was just too much telling. Even at the end of the book, I felt he could have done without the first chapter, regardless of how well it book-ended the arc. Still, overall, the info-dump does somewhat fit the fast pace, as characters are then immediately pitted in a situation that highlights key elements from their introduction.
It was a fun read, and I’m not sad I read it; I even shared a few choice lines with friends while I was reading. By the sixth chapter or so, I was happy to pick it up over getting actual work done. Rehder succeeded with his attempt at poking fun of “both” sides of gun control, and while most or all of the characters were caricatures, not deep by any stretch, none of them were flat. At worst, they were simply ethereal, like one fellow who only got a few pages in an airport. Once I found Rehder’s pace, the rapid-fire scene and point of view changes rarely jarred, and I was eager to see how he was going to wrap everything up. The ending did not disappoint, though I could have done with more fleshing out of various backstory.
I heartily recommend it if you’re looking for some light reading with a few laugh out loud moments. Maybe just skip the first chapter.
[review originally posted at Greatest Uncommon Denominator Magazine]