The Devil and the Tiger by Jackson Hinds

Hot Off the Presses scours the internet for newly published debut books from unknown authors, and saves everyone else the trouble of actually reading books to find out if they’re good or not. New posts every Tuesday, or maybe Wednesday? This is meant for entertainment purposes only, not serious consumer advice. And there will be spoilers.

Have you ever wondered why men’s razors have names like “Mach Power Turbo” and “Fusion Champion Stealth?” The real reason is so women won’t jump ship and save themselves a dollar worth of pink tax. Seriously, whose dignity is worth so little that you’ll shave your legs with a razor that would laugh at its own Goodfellas references on a first date? But there is a deeper reason. As hard as it is to believe, let alone stomach, some people look at a small wand designed to make their face youthfully smooth and epicene, that calls itself the Titanium Rat Fucker 9000, and reach for their wallet. These enigmatic creatures of the sports-couch, these are the people for whom The Devil and the Tiger was written. The Devil and the Tiger is a blood spatter analysis textbook perpetrated by Jackson Hinds.

Normally I run through the plot to give you an idea of what I went through and what species of cymbal monkey promenades up and down the author’s brain pan. But I couldn’t do that this time. I truly couldn’t, for three reasons. First, this brick weighs in at almost three hundred thousand words. I swear to God I felt it when my Kindle finished downloading. More importantly, The Devil and the Tiger is like one of those scenes in Game of Thrones where I just sit there, like a dog in front of an oil painting, trying to figure out what a non-psychopath is supposed to be getting out of it. You know the ones, where the camera zooms in on some murder-rape, and you can barely hear the dialogue over the sound of the director licking his lips. The third reason is that the book is almost three hundred thousand words, because these two facts compound on each other, back and forth, forever. There are only so many times I can read about what a dying person’s tears taste like or what crunching bones sound like before I have to cleanse my mind of all that negativity with a soothing podcast about a white lady yoga murder cult. So instead of the whole enchilada, we get tapas. In other words, I’m just reading the blurb. I can already tell you this is a great blurb, and I’ll use the bits and pieces of the book I read through my fingers to determine how accurate it is.

The magic begins with the tagline: “When madness wars against madness, madness wins.” I know what you’re thinking: this is amazing, how could this book be anything other than comedy gold? I already had questions going into the first page, like “doesn’t madness also lose?,” which is always the mark of a good blurb. But later my question was “what madness?” Madness, to me, implies psychological horror, not watching a series of furries get turned into chunky marinara. Oh yeah, it’s also furries. There’s a lot about this book that just seems to… be there. Like, details of how the magic system works or how politics differ from our own, or special hyper-awesome bullets, explained in a footnote and never mentioned again. Generally I would forget that the characters were furries while they were doing detective stuff or assassin stuff, then read something like “her ears flattened” or “his baculum extended,” and spend a few seconds making a rebooting noise in my brain.

On cue, the blurb gives us an intro to our protagonist(s): “An agent of the law, sick with grief. A rookie cop who trusts no one. A new convert within a radical, dangerous syndicate. A mobster on his way up in the world, with all the danger that entails. A ruthless vigilante, always in total control. Their paths cross and weave into a fuse that’s already lit.” I know, I know, you don’t believe me that this isn’t the greatest book ever. I was more excited when I read this than I was when I found out the hotel in Trixie Motel is a real place. How do you weave a lit fuse? But once I started reading I was more disappointed than I was when I found out a night at the Trixie Motel costs $550. The main characters, so far as I can tell, are the dour cop… ferret… thing? lady? and an assassin who spends his time reminding the reader how awesome he is while turning the municipal population into pink mist. There’s just something about this kind of character played straight that bothers me. Killing people, sure, that’s a storytelling trope that’s been abused since Homer. But reveling in suffering, dropping little hints about how big your muscles are or how many women can’t stay away from you, it’s coded Bad Guy in my brain, and the longer the character continues to be presented as a sympathetic protagonist, the closer I get to being Norman from Star Trek, smoking at the ears. It’s like if the Thin Blue Line flag was a person, and never gets their comeuppance.

Then we get the best part: “This story just might shock you. If you’re looking for a tightly-packed, relentless thriller that vehemently refuses to waste your time, give this book a try. If you’ve ever been curious what it’s like for a book to hit full-throttle from the start and keep you front-and-center, right where the story matters most, in every scene, this story was custom-built to scratch that itch.” What can I even say to that? Who on this mortal coil has an advocate who will speak for them as passionately as this blurb brags that the book is about the story that’s in the book and not something else? It’s this kind of Labrador Retriever sincerity that almost makes me wish I could stomach a book about people getting shot full of so many holes their duodenum falls out by a lead who turns to camera and call you a beta cuck.

I am struggling to figure out to wh’mither I would recommend this book. If you’re a teenage boy who’s going to end up on the news some day, and you’re looking for a power fantasy that will take you the rest of the year to read, this is your Twilight. It’s eight dollars on Kindle (about 364 words per penny), and God knows I’ve recommended worse. Maybe give it a try if you’ve got a strong constitution and you’re into furries… I guess I only need to mention one of those. Just buy it. Maybe Jackson Hinds’ next book will put all of that psycho energy into unforgivable sex atrocities and I can finally relax.

What if Infinite Jest and the first fifteen minutes of Saving Private Ryan had a baby? And ritually ate it?

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