The triliogy: Kiss Me, Judas, Penny Dreadful, and Hell’s Half Acre
Baer’s first novel (Judas) begins with an urban legend; Phineas Poe wakes in a bathtub full of ice and blood, and with a note on his chest telling him to get to the hospital because his kidney has been removed by a prostitute named Jude. It might’ve been swapped with a bag of heroin, or it might not have. Poe wants his kidney back, of course (is that so wrong?). He’s an ex-cop with a murky past, so murky he’s neither willing or able to remember all of it.
Baer runs Poe through the wringer for three books with a veritable funhouse of characters and twists, and the balancing act works because of the impeccible voice, and because story-wise Baer never lets up while not giving in to the temptations of excess and parody. These are tight novels about one damaged person (who eerily reflects the damaged people around him) who wants to be better, whatever that might mean. This is neo-noir with buckets of style and grace and ugliness and eroticism and perversion and death and love.