Matt Phillips’ Countdown is full-cream noir set around the murky purgatory of weed dealing in California where the stuff is legal locally but not federally – so what to do with the money is a perpetual headache.

Jessie and LaDon run the weed dispensary and have their money picked up and stored by collectors. The problem is one, an “Eye-Rack” war vet, wants a big payday and ropes in his dodgy old war vet pal into a nasty scheme to hit it big. Jessie and LaDon will have to deal with the consequences.

Phillips weaves in a hot mess of greed, sexual frustration, and good deeds and comes out with another cracking novel that just swims in atmosphere, crackling dialogue, and building dread. It’s great. If I have a problem with it, it’s the same as I had with his Know Me from Smoke – I’d like to swim in its mood a little longer. It’s lean, it’s fast-paced, it’s populated by flawed, desperate characters – some with a ton of heart – and it’s worth every moment of your time.

You can buy Countdown at Amazons US and UK, or directly from All Due Respect.