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Review: The Subtle Art of Brutality by Ryan Sayles

Chris Leek
Independent Reviewer

What can I tell you about our own Ryan Sayles that hasn’t already been written many times before on the restroom walls by Joe Clifford. Well, for one I can tell you to read his book.
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Let me introduce you to ex- homicide detective turned private Investigator, Richard Dean Buckner. Buckner has been hired to track down the missing and demonstrably flaky, Delilah Boothe by her estranged surrogate father, Elam Derne. It doesn’t take long before the bodies of those left in Delilah’s wake start to pile up like cord laid in for winter and RDB discovers he’s not the only one hunting this strung out runaway. 
The Subtle Art of Brutality is a nut busting slice of noir. All of the required hard-boiled elements are present and accounted for: a tough, hard drinking PI, a MacGuffin-esque female lead and a colorful supporting cast of junkies, thugs and self serving losers. But hold the phone, Sayles doesn’t do this by numbers; he has torn up the standard script and delivers a much leaner and meaner detecitve story that kicks holes in the conventional.
Sayles treats his readers well and gives them tight plotting interlaced with some intense, uncompromising imagery and tactile language that leaps off the page and bitch slaps you with its harsh honesty. 
Richard Dean Buckner is the undoubted star of this show. I have heard him compared to Dirty Harry, but let me assure you that RDB would eat Clint’s hard-nosed cop for breakfast and crap him out in small chunks around teatime. At first glance Buckner appears elemental and direct, but there is more to him than his methods, which give the novel its title. Tragedy stalks his past and intrudes on his present. In spite of his penchant for gut wrenching violence his moral compass points to true north and those who find themselves on the wrong end of his rough justice usually deserve it.  Nobody, but nobody ever calls him Dick.
With The Subtle Art of Brutality Ryan Sayles has produced a damn fine first novel and in the process given the world of gumshoe fiction a much needed kick up the ass. If you don’t believe me then go and read it for yourself. In fact you should do that anyway.