Solomon Bull: When the Friction has its Machine by Clayton Lindemuth

It’s a twisted countdown to a brutish desert Arizona race in Clayton Lindemuth’s newest Rebel Noir novel.

“Mind over matter. I can do anything.” That’s Solomon Bull’s motto to conquer seemingly impossible tasks.  And at the top of this list is the Desert Dog race, only twelve days away.

To get a glimpse at what this freestyle event looks like, Solomon describes it best:

“The six-miler involves climbing a mountain trail, scaling a rock face, sliding down burnt volcanic rock through Cholla beds, and climbing a ten-foot, razor-topped chain link fence, (then) diving into a fifteen-mile-an-hour aqueduct.”

Ropes are available along the way, but one miss and, he warns, “You will drown.”

And that’s just once through. Former Green Beret Cal Barrett, who organizes Desert Dog, dictates the number of laps. “The Internet chat is that he uses the event to recruit mercenaries. The winners sometimes disappear.”

While Solomon ponders Desert Dog’s crazed obstacle course and the winner enigma, Lindemuth takes his first person narrative in different directions.

First plot detour is a bet involving his roommate Keith. Solomon decides to bring down Senator Cyman during his reelection campaign. Solomon’s audacious pranks get noticed when the senator’s bodyguard spies on him.

Then, as the days count down to the race, other unexpected situations—this time of the feminine kind—interrupt his preparations for the big day.

Solomon’s annoying ex-girlfriend Katrina, who eventually gravitates to Keith, tries to thwart his training, and then he’s thrown off course when Rachel, a beautiful agent for the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI), awaits him in the shower.

Rachel posits the startling conclusion that race organizer Barrett is a terrorist who has a sinister project in the works. Since Solomon plans to enter the race, Rachel puts pressure on him to spy on Barrett and infiltrate his compound.

This Solomon does, to climactic results.

Lindemuth does an excellent job developing his principal character by playing effectively off his well-defined cast. As a result, Solomon remains stress-free in the midst of disconcerting circumstances–especially as he is trying to find his place in the world despite his horrific Native American background.

Regardless of his past, Solomon’s snarky philosophical remarks and incredible ability to manipulate conversations, get him through many tight situations.

And while Lindemuth’s portrayal of Solomon’s self-assuredness and suave persona adds nuance to his politically-charged plot, the story takes on a slightly serious tone when Solomon meets Amanda Cherubini and learns that there is more to Senator Cyman than he thinks. What started as a bet suddenly turns personal.

The author’s straightforward approach to storytelling draws readers in from the get-go as he nimbly weaves in a good-versus-evil theme. Including a little bit of everything one would want in a political thriller and then some.

Five stars to Solomon Bull: When the Friction has its Machine. It should appeal to a broad audience and gain many new followers for Lindemuth’s fine work.

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