As the great detective Adrian Monk would say, OK, here’s the thing: When your father is known for being one of the best at something, and you try your hand at it, you’re going to be judged against his work. And unless you’re a superstar like Junior Griffey, who is, and has always been, a far more gifted and superior ball player than his dad, you’re likely going to be more like say, Dale Berra, who never even came close to being the ball player his father, Yogi, was.
Such is the problem that Peter Leonard faces in his second novel, Trust Me. It tries way too hard to be like any one of his father, Elmore Leonard’s novels. No one created outlandish criminal characters like Elmore Leonard, with the sole exception of maybe Ed McBain, doing the crazy things that they did. I mean, really, it takes genius to create a Chili Palmer. That being said, by about page 30, I tried to stop comparing them.
On its own, Trust Me really is pretty good. One problem I had was I found some of the characters tended to blend together too much in the beginning, causing a great deal of confusion. I had a great deal of difficulty separating which bad guy was working for who, and why. At least until they started getting killed off. Once they started weeding down, it was a bit easier to see who the players were.
The basic premise is a simple one. Two thugs break into the home of Lou Starr and Karen Delaney to steal the $9600 he just won at a casino. Delaney offers them a better deal. Leave them alone and she’ll show them to a house where there’s a safe with over a million in it they can rob.
Her last boyfriend before Lou, a crazy Arab named Samir, stole $300,000 from her and she wanted it back. This was a perfect opportunity for her to get some revenge. She gets her money back, and she gets to see Samir lose a lot more at the same time.
Of course, complications ensue and before she knows it, Samir is in the hospital, people are dead, and Karen has Samir’s people scouring Detroit and Chicago looking for her, as well as several others.
There is a lot of action and adventure, as you would expect in a crime caper. Nothing too heavy or overly violent. Very much in the same vein as, well, Elmore Leonard and Ed McBain. And, quite honestly, if this wasn’t Elmore Leonard’s son, we might be saying, it’s a pretty good second novel with some minor flaws that he can work on for his next book. But, here’s the thing: When you take on the exact same job that not only your father had, but was the master of, you better be damn good or expect the criticism.