Blood and Mascara, Hard-Hitting Contemporary Noir by Colin Krainin

The Bottom Line: Debut adult novelist Colin Krainin elevates contemporary noir with this gritty, hard-hitting thriller that will have readers anxiously awaiting a sequel. Highly recommended. 

Washington D.C. private detective Bronze Goldberg specializes in infidelity cases. Just after capturing photographic evidence on a suspected philanderer named Carolyn, Bronze finds that a man she had sex with – a congressman named Billy Kopes – has washed up dead on the shores of the Potomac River. 

Bronze goes to a police detective, Mark Roth, and tells him what he knows. But when the pair go to Bronze’s client (Carolyn’s husband) to get more information, Bronze lashes out, accusing his client of holding back information. The two get into a vicious argument before it’s abruptly ended by an assassin. Bullets fly and chaos ensues. Moments later, Carolyn’s husband is dead and a police officer is wounded. Were they really the intended targets, or were the bullets meant for Bronze?

Bronze, who was already scraping by thanks to struggles with addiction and trauma, finds his entire life turned upside down. Will this case be the end of him, or could it be the path to salvation? 

Noir die-hards will love what author Colin Krainin has done with Blood and Mascara. Carolyn is an archetype femme fatale, and 90s D.C. is rendered as a perfect gritty urban setting. Krainin nails lighting contrasts at levels usually reserved for film by writing from a sensory perspective (“Walking out into the May sun, Bronze felt like a vampire about to disintegrate…[he] lit a Chesterfield and beat a retreat back to the shade of the stairs that hung over the door of his basement apartment”) Dark things cannot be escaped even in day, which creates a terrific atmosphere of tension, mystery and moral complexity throughout.

But Krainin’s greatest achievement is Bronze’s spooky landlord, Iris Margaryan. At times she seems to know Bronze better than he knows himself, and chapters written from her perspective are haunting, dark and illuminating all at the same time. Bronze’s investigation into the congressman’s death is worth the price of admission alone, but Iris’ role in Bronze’s journey and character development is what truly surprises and differentiates Blood and Mascara from the pack. Noir fans may find the novel one of the most emotive books the genre has ever seen. We hope this isn’t the last we see of Bronze Goldberg. 

Bella Wright

Bella Wright blogs about books, film and media.

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