Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Whiplash River

Whiplash River, by Lou Berney.

Shake remembered the real Roland Ziegler. The real Roland Ziegler had been feeling pretty good about himself back in Panama City three years ago, about to walk away with both the money and the merchandise, back to his private island in the Caribbean. Next thing he knew, his hopes had gone up in smoke and he was staring at twenty years in the federal lock.

It was like poker. You might be zooming right along, a killer hand, picking up speed on the flop and the turn. But the game wasn't over yet. That last card, the river, it could jerk you around fast. Shake knew it.


I had never read any of Lou Berney's novels before this one, including Gutshot Straight, to which this is a follow-up novel, but he has been compared to Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard. I actually found him to be more of a Harlan Coben-type - writing good mystery/suspense,  but with some of Elmore Leonard's wittiness thrown in as well.

Ex-con Charlie "Shake" Bouchon lives in Belize and operates a small restaurant. He still never got over his ex, Gina, and he owes a few dangerous people a lot of money, including the gangster Baby Jesus, who is now threatening to kill him if Shake doesn't pay up. When Harrison Quinn shows up at his restaurant to dine one evening and is almost killed by a masked gunman, Shake starts to get nervous; when his restaurant is blown up by the same people shortly after, and Shake now can't pay Baby Jesus, Shake decides it's time to run. Mr. Quinn decides to help him, but it later turns out that there are other people besides Baby Jesus after Shake too.

This novel will definitely keep your attention, although it's not the type I usually read so it did take me a while to get through it. The ending had more than one twist to it, and was very good, as was the writing and the one-liners sprinkled throughout it. I may read Gutshot Straight now when I get a chance, just to read about Shake and Gina's backstory, but this novel can definitely stand on its own; I didn't know until about midway through that Berney's previous novel was about the same core characters. I recommend this book if you're looking for a fast-paced travel and robbery story similar to the Ocean's Eleven movie series or if you're looking for an overall entertaining read.

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I was given a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

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