Review: ‘Coco Butternut’ by Joe R. Lansdale

Coco Butternut by Joe R. Lansdale
Subterranean Press (January 2017)

Coco Butternut is a show dog—a dachshund, to be exact. Also, she’s dead. And missing.

If you’ve read any of Joe R. Lansdale’s “Hap and Leonard” books, you’re reading that first paragraph and thinking, “Yeah, that sounds about right.” If you’re unfamiliar with the series, this novella from Subterranean Press will serve as a nice introduction, showcasing the many facets Lansdale works into each entry: the dark, often laugh-out-loud humor; the unflinching examination of the evil that humanity is capable of; and, at the core of it all, the brotherly bond shared by the two lead characters.

In Coco Butternut, Hap and Leonard are hired by the owner of Oak Rest, a mortuary/cemetery for pets. The guys are tasked with exchanging a bag of cash for the mummified corpse of the prize-winning dachshund, a job they pull of successfully; even so, they can’t shake the feeling that something about the deal is off. Unable to help themselves, they begin to snoop around, unearthing a whole slew of dirty secrets from the Oak Rest grounds.

While the guys are good at finding trouble, they often need help extricating themselves from the predicaments they land in, and this particular adventure is no exception. Thank goodness for Brett, Hap’s long-time significant other; in her Lansdale has created a tough, smart, believable woman who does more than her fair share to help Hap and Leonard out of jam after jam. Also along for the ride is Chance, Hap’s daughter, who displays hints of her dad’s dry wit and is beginning to come into her own as part of the series.

Lansdale has been rolling out lots of new Hap and Leonard material lately, and 2017 promises a bumper crop that includes this novella, another novella called Hoodoo Harry, a full-length novel called Rusty Puppy, and a collection called Blood and Lemonade. As a bonus, season two of Sundance’s Hap and Leonard television series (adapting the 1994 novel Mucho Mojo) begins in March. Coco Butternut is the perfect appetizer to this rich feast Lansdale is setting before us. Dig in and enjoy.