Monday, July 16, 2012

Whiplash River, by Lou Berney, reviewed

I really enjoyed this novel. This is the second book to feature Shake Bouchon and Gina Clement, two con artists with a history. (I hadn’t read the first book of the series, Gutshot Straight, but didn’t need to. Author Lou Berney does a good job filling in first-time readers nicely, while also giving gentle reminders to fans of the first novel.) Shake is now trying to live a clean life running a restaurant in Belize. But the need for cash and the appearance of a man named Quinn (not to mention the hitman sent to kill him) soon upsets Shake’s calm existence.

If you’re a fan of Elmore Leonard, you’ll like this book. The caper story, the strong female character (and love interest) that is the equal to the male lead, plus a second female character (FBI agent Evelyn Holly) who also catches the eye of Shake are all very Leonard-esque. In addition, the character Harrigan Quinn is a hoot, and almost steals the show (I hope we see him again in future novels). He’s a grifter who ropes Shake and Gina into participating in his con, which brings them all the way from Belize to Egypt.

Good dialogue, short chapters (with alternating POVs), and lots of humor keep the story moving and the pages turning. There are many side characters that really add fun to the story; Berney has created a good cast that he can draw from in future books. I’m specifically thinking of Meg, the novice criminal who right now has more spunk than experience; Sticky Jimmy, a politician who needs to clean up some loose ends from his past; and Baby Jesus, the hefty drug lord of Belize.

Soon after I finished this novel I was already missing it. Then I remembered, I still have the first one to read!

4 Stars