In 1952, accustomed to accompanying her pool shark father from one Texas poolroom to another where he earns money hustling suckers, seventeen-year-old Kristin Van Dijk doesn’t experience violence as a way of life. Not, at least, until a fateful night in Henry Chin’s poolroom when a member of the Lost Demons outlaw motorcycle gang shows up wanting revenge for having been hustled by her father. Violence erupts, resulting in multiple deaths that include those of Kristin’s father, Henry’s son, and one of the biker gang. Kristin is repeatedly raped and beaten by the bikers. When she recovers, having sustained some permanent damage and realizing the police aren’t taking the incident seriously, she is determined to hunt down the men responsible for the deaths and her condition. Henry Chin is equally determined.
Kristin gets help from several different experts who put her through a rigorous course of training until she becomes proficient at hand-to-hand combat, the use of firearms, and at shooting pool. Henry hires private detective Otis Millett to locate their quarry, and then he and Kristin go after them. Sometimes Kristin goes alone. Along the way she learns that people are not always the seemingly respectable folks they present themselves as.
I read Baby Shark because a considerable number of people at a web group I belong to, one of whom is a close friend, have raved about it. I enjoyed the book for what it is, a fast-paced, crisply told revenge/coming-of-age tale whose principal characters are decently fleshed-out (though most of the others are just names on the page). But I frankly don’t understand the raves. There’s nothing startlingly original about the premise, the violence that’s vividly depicted, or the characters. Permit me–or forgive me for using–movie references: after being raped and assaulted by “The Wild One,” a young woman transforms herself into “The Karate Kid” and “The Hustler” to “Kill Bill.”
Will I read any of the sequels? Probably, if only to see in what direction the author takes his main characters, and to see how–and if–he develops them further. Mostly, however, Baby Shark hits me the way Mickey Spillane’s novels do: as ephemeral mind-candy.
I can’t address the paperback edition, but the Kindle edition could use a good proofreader to correct a significant number of punctuation errors.
© 2012 Barry Ergang
A Derringer Award-winner, Barry Ergang’s fiction, poetry and non-fiction has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. Some of his work is available at Smashwords and Amazon. His website is http://www.writetrack.yolasite.com/.