Rattlesnake Rodeo by Nick Kolakowski
The Nitty Gritty: Rattlesnake Rodeo is a crime thriller that moves at a blistering pace without sacrificing meaningful character development. Kolakowski expertly immerses readers in the world he’s writing about, and you feel the physical and emotional toll the events take on Jake, Frankie, and Janine.
Ideal Audience: Rattlesnake Rodeo is ideal for adult crime fiction readers who love action-packed stories and don’t flinch from violence.
Strengths: Rattlesnake Rodeo picks up where Boise Longpig Hunting Club leaves off, but Kolakowski manages the transition seamlessly, and even if you haven’t read the first book you can pick up Rattlesnake Rodeo and follow along without confusion. Kolakowski peppers in just enough information for readers to be anchored with the events preceding Rattlesnake Rodeo, without weighing the text down with pages of backstory.
The skills that enable Kolakowski to move events forward while giving just enough information to provide context also enable Kolakowski to write an action-packed story that continuously advances the plot without feeling like it skims on character development, either. The realities of every situation the characters face leave a mark, and we feel the emotional and physical toll the events are taking. At the same time, we understand the characters’ motivations and are invested in the outcome. Although not everything Jake, Frankie, Janine, and the others do is strictly legal, there’s almost always a sense that it’s moral. Kolakowski isn’t heavy-handed in his exploration of situational ethics, but almost every situation the characters find themselves in requires them to make choices, and sometimes what society would say is right would be dead wrong.
I found myself rooting for all of them to the very end, and I have a real appreciation for stories that embrace plot and don’t shy away from having action move the story forward. This one hooked me quickly. I was happy to strap myself in and go along for the ride, and found it hard to put down.
Weaknesses: It’s not fair to say this is a weakness, really. Kolakowski makes a stylistic choice with a few chapters, and as a writer, I understand exactly why he made the choice he did. I still felt like reading them broke my brain … but then again, in a way, that’s the point. When life and death hang in the balance and you have to think on your feet to try to figure out how to survive in a crisis, it can be overwhelming. Consider it an immersive reading experience; like me, you might feel that your brain hurts after those two short chapters, but more than the substance of what’s written, that’s probably the point.
Hot Take: Janine and Frankie are strong characters, and it’s clear that Kolakowski writes strong female characters but doesn’t stick to cliches. I’d been impressed with his book, Maxine Unleashes Doomsday, and continue to be impressed with his portrayal of women in his works. Frankie is amazing, and I join the chorus of voices asking for a Frankie spin-off. I do really appreciate the relationship she has with her brother, but I’d love to see her front and center in her own story.
Trigger Warnings: the content is appropriate and typical of what you’d expect for a crime/thriller
Source: Author provided an ARC for review