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Gutshot Straight    by Lou Berney order for
Gutshot Straight
by Lou Berney
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I knew Gutshot Straight was a winner after only the first few pages. Though I don't generally enjoy mysteries with criminal protagonists, this addictive caper drew me in quickly and kept me turning pages, anxious for more.

We know that its hero (of sorts), professional wheel man Charles Samuel 'Shake' Bouchon, is a survivor when he outsmarts Vader Wallace, 'a mean young black con' who's out to kill him during his last day of a fifteen month jail term for grand theft auto. We also know he's not that smart since he was in prison in the first place. He stays in character, not too smart and just a little too nice for his profession and for his own good.

Returning to Los Angeles, Shake is met by a limo, in which sits beautiful and formidable Armenian mob pakhan Alexandra Ilandryan (his ex-boss and ex-lover). Lexy has an easy errand for Shake, a way to thank him for his loyalty in not making a plea bargain and serving his time - he simply has to deliver a package to Las Vegas and exchange it for a briefcase. But the lovely package claims to be an innocent Mormon housewife, and Shake is just too nice a guy to turn her over to brutal Dick Moby, 'The Whale'.

Shake and Gina end up on the run to Panama together - as do the contents of the stolen briefcase - pursued by Moby's man Jasper and by Lexy's 'prehistoric thug' Dikran (whose testosterone patch makes him particularly testy). Why Panama? They hope to sell the very unusual items that Moby was exchanging for Gina to uber-wealthy swindler Roland Ziegler (a fugitive from the Department of Justice). But neither Shake nor Gina trusts the other for one millisecond. Which is just as well as there are betrayals around every single bend of this serpentine plot.

I highly recommend Lou Berney's Gutshot Straight to you as a rare and riveting romp of a crime caper, with both a charming con artist and one of the most fascinating femmes fatales in the genre as leads.

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