The twelfth novel in the series is essentially an extended action sequence ... Lansdale’s narrative voice is as wonderful as ever, as is the banter between the mismatched best friends as they punctuate the violence with drolly mundane observations. While this lacks the deeper explorations of race in 2018’s stellar Jackrabbit Smile, and Nikki’s character isn’t exactly memorable, it’s always a pleasure to spend time with Hap and Leonard, even in the worst of circumstances.
Most of the book’s fun is the journey, from the roadside to the police station and ultimately to a long-out-of-business bowling alley where Hap, Leonard and a friend make what is the last stand…for one side, anyway. Leonard’s first-person narrative is also, as one might expect, full of the similes and metaphors for which we all come early and stay late. That said, there are indications that this may be the last outing for the duo, though at least one unresolved element is still riding off into the sunset at the end of the story ... The Elephant of Surprise comes strongly recommended, and that is no surprise at all.
No one writes East Texas humor like Joe E. Lansdale with its down home echoes of Will Rogers, and Mark Twain cynicism. That is a good thing; otherwise, the mounting body count, vivid descriptions of blood and brains, not to mention the loss of various body parts, would remain one too much of American Psycho ... nonstop action with no pause for one to draw a breath. While the pace may seem a little too fast for many, it mirrors the storm that forms the backdrop of the novel. The storm is as relentless as the action ... All in all, Lansdale delivers another exciting East Texas action thriller that will satisfy his many fans, while whetting their appetite for adventures with Hap and Leonard. Well done, Mr. Lansdale.