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Gutshot Straight: A Novel by Lou Berney
Review by Steve Sawicki
William Morrow Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061766046
Date: 01 January 2010 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Charles Bouchon, also known as Snake is fresh our of prison and determined not to return. Snake is a professional getaway driver, a wheel man. When his former boss, Lexi, shows up to offer him a job, he wants to say no. Lexi, along with a substantial sum of money, convince him otherwise. Besides, the job is simple and straightforward--deliver a car from Los Angeles to Las Vegas: from one mob boss to another. All he has to do is drive, deliver the package in the trunk, pick up a briefcase and drive back.

Unfortunately, on his way to Vegas, Snake discovers that the package is actually a young woman. Gina is hot, intelligent, and too young to be handed over to someone who is going to kill her outright. So, Snake decides to not deliver the car and make a break for it. When Gina also makes a break for it from Snake, Snake finds himself with a busted job, two mob bosses after him, a hit man who blames Snake for his current misfortunes, and no idea how to square it all away except to find the Gina again and somehow make everything right.

Berney, who normally writes short fiction and for television, wrote this novel during the last writer's strike. It's a hard book to classify except to say that it combines a mystery with a detective story, some slapstick and enough wise guys to give the Three Stooges a run for their money. It's also a puzzler of an adventure story full of twists and turns in the plot. Enough to make a pretzel envious. The dialogue is sharp, the characters sharper, and the story never slows down from beginning to end.

I really enjoyed this book. I'm not a big fan of the ex-con as protagonist. I don't care why they were in prison, so I started out thinking I was not going to get very deep into this book before putting it down. That never happened. Didn't even come close.

Berney has a very visual style, from his television writing no doubt, that works really well with this character driven novel. And character driven it is, from all directions. Berney definitely has a way with character as well, again most likely from his television writing past. They're all different and they're all believable and they're all fun to be around. If you like fast paced, funny books then I can't recommend this one highly enough.

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