Anthony Neil Smith
The Baddest Ass
Blasted Heath, 2013
In the third novel of the series the (anti)hero of the previews books Billy Lafitte is in jail in North Dakota, where he is serving a life sentence. There is no peace for Billy there: other inmates consider him a traitor, and now and then attempt on his life. Billy’s enemies from the outside also want him dead: FBI agent Rome, whose life Billy spoiled earlier, and Colleen Hartle, whose boyfriend died in accident because of Billy. They order the murder of Billy and - for a fee - the leader of blacks Ri’Chess and Head Prison Guard Garner accept to eliminate Billy. According to their plan, the death of Billy will happen during a blizzard. Due to bad weather in the prison electricity will be shut down for a short period of time, and at that time one of the prisoners will kill Billy. But it so happens that the planned murder coincides with the visit to the prison of Lafitte’s son accompanied by his grandmother (Billy’s mother-in-law) and Colleen, who is offering for a hit not only money but her own body, as well. The situation gets out of control, and a quick hit grows into something big.
Good prison novels are always in short supply. The Baddest Ass is inherently a prison novel, but is it a good one? Not really. The novel is intriguing while it tells about everyday life behind bars, until the moment when the riot actually begins. And this is only a quarter of the book. When the most interesting only should take shape, the novel suddenly loses all its touch. Two-thirds of The Baddest Ass is a pulp-style fighting, with hypertrophied villains and sluggish action. Smith, who is writing clever and sophisticatedly plotted books, disappoints with this one.
Smith switches between the characters, but he loses touch with his own creations. Voices of two female characters fill with fake notes. Pious old lady suddenly mentions men’s «balls», and Colleen suddenly overflows with a sense of love for Billy’s mother-in-law and his son, whom she hasn’t ever seen before that. What is worst of all: two characters who have had the greatest potential, whose minds were interesting to be in, are out of the game immediately after the first quarter of the book.
If I should continue with the flaws, I will mention that it’s hard to believe that Billy would end up in a conventional high-security prison, given that he likely had been convicted of terrorism. It also is unlikely that other inmates would despise and hate Lafitte because he is a traitor. I think these guys inside don’t really care.
I highly valued the two previous novels about Lafitte, they were outstanding books. This is a hit-and-miss, it’s really baddest. Looking forward to next books when Smith, hopefully, will return to the form.