Eighty-seven-year-old Buck Schatz is nearing the end of the line and all he wants to do is while away his days watching Fox News, smoking cigarettes, and minding his own damn business. But this tough, cranky, Jewish ex-Memphis cop has a way of attracting trouble. Always did. Buck gets ensnared in a particularly nasty bit of it when an old World War II buddy tells him on his death bed that the Nazi SS officer who tortured Buck while he was a prisoner of war isn't dead as Buck always believed. When the war ended, the Nazi fled with a cache of gold, effectively getting away with his crimes. Buck, accompanied by his twentysomething law-student grandson, Tequila, wants vengeance—and that gold would be nice too. Now, if only he could master Google.
Old Buck doesn't much like you and he hopes you know it. But like most tough guys, there's a sentimental streak underneath the hardened exterior. Just don't tell Buck that got out. Friedman's debut novel introduces this perfectly realized crusty character with humor, vigor, and warmth. That's not to say Buck is always civil company. He's anything but most of the time, which becomes the foundation for much of the book's humor as the irascible old guy is forced to constantly engage with polite people during his hunt for a Nazi fugitive. His loving yet contentious relationship with his grandson, roughly 60 years his junior, adds further hilarity.
It's a pitch-perfect debut novel, expertly balancing comedy, gritty crime drama, absurdity, and genuine poignancy. It's also one of the most assured debuts in some time—the dialogue and tight, expert plotting should please fans of Elmore Leonard, Charles Willeford, and Joe Lansdale. The mystery field is crammed with "colorful" amateur detectives, but you've never met anyone quite like this old bastard. You'll never forget him either. Highly recommended.