They Came in Twos
Guillermo Machado’s They Came in Twos is set during prohibition in the fictional state of Great Leaf on the northeast coast. His characters are tough guys: a nightclub owner with charges of racketeering and rum-running, a mob lawyer too slippery to catch, a dirty detective charged with aiding and abetting known fugitives, hired muscle, and others.
Machado successfully sets his characters within certain social strata through his use of phonetic language, and the dialogue is peppered with macho lingo that sets the characters apart from the reader in time and circumstance: greaseball, on the QT, a drum in a sweatshop, a real face stretched, etc. In this way, Machado displays his familiarity with the noir canon and sets his work firmly within it. Machado draws readers into his created reality with detached, choppy sentences and unusual metaphors to depict a scene: “the marquee’s neon salted the empty spaces of the night…Men in topcoats and hats, women in mink and clothes paraded through the front door… Three green and black RMPs loitered across the street.” Readers will be able to visualize the setting and will appreciate the occasional unique and apt metaphor.
That said, this work does have its occasional pitfalls. Machado relies a bit too heavily on a standard means of introducing his characters: name, description, charges, current occupation, and aliases, which become repetitive as the list expands: “Meet Pazo “Pap” Fanti. Age: 44. 6’0”. 215 lbs. Worked with his mitts before his feet learned to walk…Lean legs, one half-bum… Paper thin ‘stache. Eyes sky-blue behind bottle caps. Salt and pepper feathers slicked to his neck, tulip ears. …Charged: rum-running, racketeering, heading up illegal joints…Still at large. Occupation: nightspot baron. AKA Chameleon; AKA Night Fox; AKA Cap’n Pap; AKA Mr. Magic.” It would be to the story’s benefit if Machado moved away from character lists and, instead, favored a slow reveal of their nature and backstory through expressions, gestures, words, and what is left unsaid. Recommended for fans of noir.
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|Mystery, Crime, Thriller