REVIEW: Stinking Rich by Rob Brunet

Stinking Rich, the novel

Reviewed by Kristen Valentine

Danny Grant has the most charmed life of any anti-hero since Butch Coolidge roared off the screen of Pulp Fiction on a stolen chopper proclaiming “Zed’s dead, baby.  Zed’s dead.”  The protagonist of Rob Brunet’s crime novel Stinking Rich cannot be kept down for long.  Although a series of questionable life choices (hint: do not celebrate escaping from drug sniffing police dogs by lighting a joint) lead to Danny being chased through the back woods of Canada by a rogue’s gallery of police and bikers, it is his luck and his motley crew of (sometimes) loyal pals that make this debut novel a real page turner.   The characters are equal parts folksy and sly, an entertaining and endearing combination that keeps you interested in wanting to see what outrageous twists of fortune are coming for them next.

The world of this book is a world of scraping by, of casual petty thievery, in which people have so little that a carton of cigarettes might be enough to risk your life for.  So when the biker gang (hilariously named “The Libidos”) loses track of a bag stuffed with $750,000 on the night that their marijuana growing operation goes up in smoke, it’s enough to throw all the locals off balance with thoughts of easy money and a better life for whoever can find it first.

While the book has a bit of something for everyone (Feisty granny! Lhasa apso! Firefighters!), the target audience may be the those who enjoy their fiction with a side of bodily fluids.  Stinking Rich features so many instances of characters pissing themselves, shitting themselves, and vomiting through mouths and noses, that it actually did not come as a surprise late in the novel to find shit literally raining down from the sky.  It’s not enough to put you off the story, but if you have a weak stomach, maybe don’t read it over lunch. 

Stinking Rich bills itself as a crime novel, which it is, in the tradition of Denis Johnson’s Nobody Move, or the bleak country noir of Daniel Woodrell – but it is also has elements of a mad cap adventure story to it – as if these works were crossed with the comedic elements of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”  It’s rare for this kind of mystery to show a sense of whimsy, but with character names like Perko Ratwick and Ernst McCann, you really do get a sense that it aspires to be nothing more or less than a damn fine (and fun) yarn – the kind of exaggerated tale you might hear spun out over too many drinks on a cool autumn night around a camp fire.