All He Saw Was The Girl
Published: January 6, 2011
With his previous novels Quiver and Trust Me, Leonard established himself as a serious rival to his father Elmore in the slapstick-caper-with-great-dialogue stakes. For number three he relocates to Rome, where two exchange students, McCabe and arrogant smartass Chip, the son of a rich US senator, run into a little local difficulty after they drunkenly hijack a taxi. (Pleasingly, this is based on an incident from Leonard’s own life when he was a student in Italy in the 1970s.) Their release from jail makes the newspapers, but a captioning error triggers a mistaken-identity mafia-kidnap plot of the type you might expect. Lean and tight, All He Saw Was the Girl is one of those novels you don’t read so much as glide through, grinning and snorting. Leonard has a well-tuned ear for random chatter and can capture a character in a single phrase.
The book has all the hallmarks of vintage Elmore. There’s the hot-plate sizzle of brilliantly written dialogue, succinct description, all you need to know about where you are in a few telling sentences, no fat at all on these words, crisp characterization that tells you everything about the book’s colorful cast and brings then to vivid actuality in a few neat strokes and an impeccable eye for detail. Tremendous stuff, really.
It’s not just the slaloms and switchbacks of his plotting that invigorate; it’s the constant riffing inventiveness of his almost throwaway characterization, the snap and snarl of his dialogue, the sheer clarity of action - “A fat blonde tourist eating an ice-cream cone walked right into him and got chocolate ice cream on the front of his teal Tommy Bahama Eazy Breezer. ‘Why don’t you open your fucking eyes,’ he said.” Why not let Peter Leonard open yours?
If you have successfully resisted reading a book by Peter Leonard thus far —- and why would you want to do such a thing, anyway? - — you need to give up that habit and read this riveting and rollicking novel that’s a non-stop joy from beginning to end.
Peter Leonard¹s third novel is just as fast paced and action packed as the first two and what we¹ve come to expect by this new author. All He Saw Was The Girl starts out in Rome in a stolen taxi, then cuts over to the story of a mobster in Detroit. From here on the story flows back and forward between the two cities.Leonard flicks between the two intertwined story arcs with a masterful ease, making the competing story lines equally as interesting. The way Leonard writes is so fluent that I¹d finished the book in such a short amount of time and now can¹t wait for his next book.