Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Whiplash River by Lou Berney

I think so much of Lou Berney's first caper novel, Gutshot Straight, that I included it in the mystery chapter for the next edition of Genreflecting. It's funny and fast-paced, with a loveable criminal, Charles "Shake" Bouchon, just what a caper should be. And, poor Shake is no better off in Whiplash River.

The former getaway driver tried to leave his life of crime behind, escaping to Belize and opening a little restaurant on the beach. However, trouble seems to follow Shake. It isn't bad enough that he has to deal with problems behind the scenes. His kitchen staff fights. He has to put out fires, deal with crooked inspectors and enormous cockroaches. It gets worse. He borrowed money from a Central American drug lord, Baby Jesus, to open his restaurant, and business hasn't been great. Special Agent Evelyn Holly from the FBI shows up, wanting him to rat out the Armenian mob in L.A. And, then someone shows up in the restaurant to shoot at one of his customers. Even Shake knows it's time to move on when his restaurant is blown up.

Shake hasn't always been known to make good choices, though. His biggest mistake might have been walking out on the love of his life, Gina. He might have made a bigger one when he decides to team up with Harrigan Quinn, that restaurant customer someone tried to shoot. By the time Shake spends a day listening to Quinn's long-winded stories and outlandish schemes, he might be willing to shoot him as well. But, one of Quiinn's schemes could just team Shake up with Gina again. And, for Shake, that's worth everything.

A good caper has wonderful, well-developed characters. Think of "The Sting," the Ocean Eleven movies or one of my favorite novels, King Con by Stephen Cannell. Lou Berney's books have those same type of loveable losers. Gina sees Shake as "Mr. Nice Guy". Shake sees Gina as someone who "could put together tricky and dangerous and come out with fun." Poor Shake is just a little too insecure, a little too nice. And, he continues to get caught up in trouble. He sees it coming, but it's always too late to avoid it. Gina picks on Shake unmercifully because he wounded her once. Her comments and the interplay between the two of them are funny. And, Harrigan Quinn has a story and a plan to improve every situation. It's a jam-packed cast perfect for a caper novel.

Shake and Quinn pair up in adventures that go from Belize to Mexico to San Francisco then Egypt. The action never quits in Whiplash River.  Fans who miss Donald Westlake might just want to catch up with the latest adventures of Shake Bouchon. Readers truly could get whiplash trying to follow the twists and turns in this enjoyable treat.

Lou Berney's website is www.LouBerney.com

Whiplash River by Lou Berney. William Morrow. 2012. ISBN 9780062090635 (hardcover), 320p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would read it.

8 comments:

Beth Hoffman said...

This sounds fun! When you wrote "loveable criminal" I was on my way to being hooked!

Lesa said...

Shake is just about as loveable as a criminal gets, Beth. It is fun, right down to the last sentence.

caite said...

I have this one in my TBR pile and was just looking at it yesterday. I was not too excited after reading the back cover..but now I am feeling much better about it! thanks! ;-)

Marce said...

I added this to my Wishlist yesterday, definitely sounds like a fun read.

Lesa said...

It's a non-stop caper, Caite. It might not be your type of book. I just love Shake.

Lesa said...

I thought it was fun, Marce. Different people enjoy different types of books, though.

Carson Lee said...

"Harrigan Quinn has a story and a plan to improve every situation."
: )
And -- was just thinking of Donald Westlake as I read your review & then came upon his name. ...

I discovered some Donald Westlake books in the library in Pierre, South Dakota, a thousand years ago between sophomore & junior year in high school, and "mowed" through them - ! thanks for the memory...
bluecollarlit.blogspot.com

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Carson. I'm sure Lou would agree that Westlake was the master. But, I hope you try Gutshot Straight and Whiplash River to see what you think.