Lou Berney, Gutshot Straight

Posted June 12, 2012 by Kathy Davie in

Gutshot Straight: A NovelGutshot Straight: A Novel by Lou Berney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A standalone novel that will make you sympathize with the bad guys!

My Take
Well, it’s not the life I’d choose to lead, but Berney certainly creates characters with whom you can empathize…even as I shake my head in wonder.

The Building Bridges boys were an interesting and somewhat useless interjection. Unless Berney is planning a second installment and is setting us up with more characters. I suspect it’s more likely that part of the “write a book plan” calls for “x” number of subplots and so Ted got thrown in. If that’s the case, Berney needed to develop this more. It…it just hangs there. The interaction toward the end with Mariana also needed to be explained with a bit more detail. The connection was disconnected.

On the whole, this was a fun and twisty read. Gina was the most amazing liar! And Shake. Shake is a sweetheart with way more tolerance than I can imagine.

A sequel, Whiplash River, is coming out July 10th.

The Story
Shake has just been cut loose from his prison sentence and who should be meeting him at the bus depot but his old lover and crime boss. She has a little job for him. Simple. Easy. With a nice deposit toward that restaurant he wants to open up.

It’s that sweet side of Shake that gets him into trouble when he discovers his cargo and just can’t hand her over. But it’s the payoff for her delivery that really stirs things up. Nor does his “partner’s” sense of loyalty help! It’s chasing one person after another as they search for a buyer. A payoff that will make it all very worthwhile. If Shake can just survive all the people gunning for him.

The Characters
Shake is a guy caught between good and bad. Not really a true BAD guy, but not enough morals to be a good guy. He intends to go straight, but, well, how can one resist such a temptation. Gina Clement‘s got more balls than most men…she’s also more sociopath than most any one. And she can con ANYone as Shake learns. He’s certainly con-able, but he’s also pretty clever. A girl like Gina, well, she’s just gotta admire a man who can keep up.

Vader Wallace is a muscle-bound, not-too-bright, fellow con of whom Shake takes extreme advantage. He does sort of deserve it. Alexandra Ilandryan immigrated to America from Armenia and soon took control of the entire Armenian mob in Los Angeles. Dikran Ghazarian is her bodyguard and number-one hatchet man. He’d love to “tear the spine from Shake’s body”.

Dick Moby, a.k.a., the Whale, is a mean, nasty, snake of a man who runs a number of businesses in Las Vegas and Gina crossed that man. Jasper is his even-tempered, right-hand man and quite eager to repair his error. He’s just got this one conflict. By the name of Lucy, Gina’s compatriot in crime, the Whale’s girlfriend.

Marvin Oates is a pawnshop dealer who takes greater interest in the buy Gina is offering up. Roland Ziegler is hiding out in Panama from the U.S. authorities. Seems they took exception to the people he bilked.

For a different kind of comic relief, there’s the Building Bridges International team. I dunno, it seems like a scam…I still haven’t figured what their deal really was. The only gentleman in the group of real interest is Ted Boxman whom Gina both destroys and remakes.

The Cover
LOL, the title may be straight, but the path the bullets take on the cover is anything but! Too cute… It’s one gun pointing down from the top and another pointing up from the bottom of this very red cover, GSR spraying the corners. It’s tracing out the path their respective bullets have taken that twists and curves and comes back around…much like the events in this story!

I’m guessing at the title…or maybe it was something somebody said to Berney…but I think it’s more of a metaphorical gutshot. Lord knows Gina was zinging away like crazy.

Got an email from Lou Berney: “a ‘gutshot straight’ is a poker term for a really reckless gamble (drawing to an inside straight)”.

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