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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review - Whiplash River

Today is a blog tour for the Book Whiplash River by author Lou Berney.  

Lou's first novel, GUTSHOT STRAIGHT, was nominated for a Barry Award and named by Booklist as one of the best debut crime novels of the year. His short fiction has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and the Pushcart Prize anthology, and he has written feature screenplays and created TV pilots for, among others, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Focus Features, ABC, and Fox. Currently he teaches writing at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City University.

His new book, Whiplash River, has been getting a lot of good buzz, so let's see how I liked it.

Author: Lou Berney

Copyright: July 10, 2012 (William Morrow) 320 pgs

Series: 2nd in Shake Bouchon Adventures

Sensuality: Warning-language and some violence, adult references

Mystery Sub-genre: Hard boiled Crime Fiction

Main Characters: Charles "Shake" Bouchon, former Professional wheel man now restaurant owner/chef

Setting: Modern day, Belize and Egypt

Obtained Through: TLC Tours

Quick summary from Amazon:
Having left his life of crime behind, former getaway driver Charles "Shake" Bouchon has finally realized the dream of owning his own restaurant in Belize. Unfortunately, to do so he's had to go deep in debt to a murderous local drug lord named Baby Jesus. And when Shake thwarts an attempted hit on an elderly customer named Quinn, in his restaurant - things go from bad to worse.

Next thing Shake knows, his restaurant's gone up in flames and he's on the run from Baby Jesus, two freelance assassins, and a beautiful but ferocious FBI agent. Out of options, Shake has to turn to the mysterious Quinn for help. Suddenly Shake's up to his neck in a dangerous score that he'll never pull off unless he can convince an even more dangerous ex-girlfriend to join him.

My thoughts:
I have to admit that I had a hard time warming up to a criminal as the main character.  He is described as too nice a guy for the life he's led and not nice enough for any other. He is charming and even sincere. He has done some prison time and he just seems to keep getting tangled in the seedy side of life, such as when he takes a lone from the Belize drug lord to get his restaurant going.  These bad occurances just seem to happen TO him without his purposefully seeking them out. He was a well drawn, rather sad character.  

I particularly liked the FBI agent, Evelyn, as she doggedly follows "Shake" with the intent of convincing, or manipulating, him to testify against the Armenian mob that he worked for in the prior book.  I would love to see a series based on Evelyn's character because she is such a well developed, complex, and driven character.  The ex-girlfriend Gina is a character you don't trust from the moment she is introduced.  She lies like it is second nature, and goes on the Egypt job mainly to torture Shake for dumping her.  Then there is Quinn, man of mystery, maybe prior CIA - but shady and despite being in his seventies, he is no good through and through.  The hired assassin, Meg, is one of those screwed up people whose life is crime and violence and she doesn't like, nor want, a different life.  She is very effectively portrayed as one scary gal.

Both Belize and Egypt are aptly portrayed.  So much so that my desire to vacation in Belize has been squashed after this peek into its criminal underbelly.  The paradise with a criminal network is beautifully portrayed with just enough sunsets and yet the tension of organized crime in the shadows.  Egypt was perfect to carry on a delicate and dangerous criminal operation that had been mis-advertised from the start.

The plot is involved with several components going simultaneously, yet seamlessly. This could have caused confusion, but was deftly handled.  All the compenents met for the finale in grand fashion. The pacing was consistant throughout and kept my interest to see how it turned out at each turn.

This is not an "Ocean's Eleven" kind of slick criminal, Shake is a messy case without the suave side.  Shake is a criminal who dreams of being a simple restaurant owner, until it is blown up and he has to resort to what he knows, illegal tactics, to get away from the people trying to kill him. If you are put off by the "F" bomb, this is full of it along with some crude references - but I have definitely read worse language in not as well done novels.  It says a lot about the author who can take an anti-hero like Shake, a criminal, and have the reader routing that he gets his simple dream back.

Rating:   Good - A fun read with minor flaws (example is language and violence if those are an issue for you). Maybe read an excerpt before buying.  Otherwise an excellent read that surprised me, put this author on your watch list.

Blog Tour Schedule:
Tuesday, August 2nd: Book Reviews by Elizabeth A. White
Thursday, August 9th: Mysteries and My Musings – review
Monday, August 13th: No More Grumpy Booksellers
Tuesday, August 14th: Conceptual Reception
Thursday, August 16th: Life In Review
Monday, August 20th: Mysteries and My Musings – Q&A
Tuesday, August 21st: West Metro Mommy
Wednesday, August 22nd: she treads softly
Thursday, August 23rd: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Monday, September 3rd: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, September 5th: Seaside Book Nook
Thursday, September 6th: M. Denise C.
Monday, September 10th: Lance Mannion
Wednesday, September 12th: Kristina’s Favorites
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Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this one overall. Thanks for being a part of the tour!

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