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Triggerfish by Dietrich Kalteis

Reviewed by Ian Thomas Shaw

Like the chroniclers of Wild West gunslingers, Dietrich Kalteis builds on the machismo of his male characters and exploits the raw sensuality of his female leads. In his latest novel, Triggerfish, this West Vancouver author takes this to a new level.

As in all of Kalteis' novels, Triggerfish unveils the dark side of B.C. life—the underbelly of “cool.” The story's hero is a hard-drinking ex-cop, Rene Beckman, who, after barely surviving a confrontation with a knife-wielding terrorist, decides to cash in his disability insurance and buy a charter fishing boat. But the quiet life aboard the Triggerfish takes a dive when Beckman sails into a secret rendez-vous between Mexican drug smugglers on a submarine and the crew of a harbour tug sent by the buyers—the Rockers MC.

If crossing paths with the smugglers wasn't bad enough, the encounter comes in the midst of Beckman copulating with a very hot environmentalist, Vicki. A considerable amount of bluster and some help from the tug's captain, Ramon Sanchez, gets Beckman out of the jam, but not for long. The Mexicans decide not to leave loose ends and order the Rockers to track down Beckman and eliminate him. Pissed with Sanchez, whom he holds responsible for letting Beckman get away, the Mexicans' leader Diego Guzman decides that Sanchez' hapless nephew Eddie should make the hit. Guzman sends along his enforcer, Amado, to ensure that Eddie does the deed.

Beckman, unaware of the storm headed his way, is preoccupied with repairing the damage with Vicki, angry at being caught in flagrante delicto in full view of the gang-banging submariners. She doesn't stay angry long, but forgiveness comes with a price. Beckman must join her on a save-the-whales mission in the Antarctic. Beckman's hesitation to “jump on board” costs him when smooth-talking Jimmy steps in to win Vicki's affection with his impeccable eco-warrior and tofu-eating credentials.

When the bikers torch the Triggerfish in a botched assassination attempt, Beckman, assisted by Jimmy, goes on the offensive against them and the Mexicans. Pretty soon everyone is shooting at each other, and gang-bangers and bikers drop like flies. Along the way, Beckmancomes up against a ghost from his recent past, Ashika Shakira, the femme fatale terrorist whose knife to his chest ended his policing days. Ironically, Ashika's appearance is a blessing as her gunplay against the Mexicans and Rockers even the odds against Beckman.

What stands out in Kalteis' writing is his absolute immunity to political correctness as he ramps up the tempo and splices in copious doses of off-colour humour. And few writers have his skill when it comes to bringing out the base toughness of his characters and the rawness of their power. Kalteis is pure noir.

Triggerfish is published by ECW Press.


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