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Christa Faust throws us into the action immediately in CHOKE HOLD, the follow-up to MONEY SHOT, due out from Hard Case Crime in October.

Angel Dare is working as a waitress in a small diner when an old boy friend, and former co-star when she was in the porn industry, Thick Vic Ventura, comes in, recognizing her. He’s there, he explains, to meet the son he’s never been around and is nervous about what to say. It’s the young man, a well, built tattooed eighteen year old sitting in a corner booth.

As he walks over, a trio of Mexicans walk in and, as they pass, turn and one shoots Vic in the back. The diner owner pulls a shotgun and opens fire, Angel, the dying Vic, and his son ending up on the floor behind the counter. They drag Vic out the back door and take off in his car, pursued by the surviving member of the trio.

Faust knows how to keep the action ramped up with only brief interludes where she catches us up on what our heroine has been doing since the end of MONEY SHOT. She testified against the Croatians that were smuggling underage European girls into the country for the sex slave trade and went into witness protection. That didn’t last too long, it’s about two years since the end of the last book, her going to the court-ordered psychiatrist and hearing a screaming voice she recognized just before entering: the last surviving Croatian had somehow found her. She’d been on the run ever since.

She was at the diner waiting for a new passport, and identity, to be readied. That was out the window now.

They manage to elude the pursuit and pull over. With his dying breath, Vic gets a promise from Angel to look after his boy and she’s stuck.

The kid is Cody Noon and he has designs on being a mixed martial arts fighter. He’d been headed to Vegas for a reality show that promised a contract to the winner. They abandon the car and head for a friend’s house, Hank, about a mile away. Hank is an old MMA fighter, well past his prime and a little punchy, the only real father figure the boy has ever had.

There they assess. Angel has the Croatians after her. Cody has a slimy fellow named Lovell that wants him to fight in Mexico. And lose. He was supposed to throw his last fight and had tried, but his opponent had the proverbial glass jaw. He ran an outfit in Mexico and had had Cody bring steroids back from trips down there. The Mexican killers might be tied to him, but it didn’t seem likely.

Angel has to shepherd the crowd through the Arizona desert, Mexican towns along the border, and up into Vegas, all the while pursued by the unrelenting Croatian, the Mexicans, and Lovell.

As said earlier, Faust knows action scenes and keeps them ramped up. Turning the pages as fast as I can, wondering how Angel would escape these situations, I was sorry to see this one end. Will she return? One can only hope.

Due out on October 4th, part of the rebirth of Hard Case crime. I’m looking forward to what Ardai has for us in the future.

One final thought. Faust caught me by surprise when she had Hank, in a casual conversation with Angel, reveal he was originally from Reidsville, North Carolina, a town about ten miles from my own Eden. Wonder how that happened. She might have been through there sometime or knew someone who had.

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