A bloody massacre at a beloved diner in a small town sets Joe Café in motion, and, boy, does it move! A little Elmore Leonard, a little Pulp Fiction, JD Mader’s crime thriller sparks and crackles with tension, laying out a grisly tale of hit men, strippers, mob bosses, serial killers, and trout.

Yes, trout.

The story is dark and violent, but even the most sociopathic of Mader’s characters have the capacity for tenderness and loyalty, making us question the nature of evil: are those who do terrible things inherently evil, or have they been misshapen by life’s hard breaks?

Cutting between “good” characters sliding downhill and “bad” characters seeking redemption, Mader crafts the rhythm and contrast that make this fairly short book fly by while leaving a deeper, haunting impression behind. I would absolutely recommend this book, and I can’t wait to read more of Mader’s work.