Tuesday, February 12, 2013

‘Ghostman’ by Roger Hobbs

A Crook With a Big Debt to Pay

By Published: February 10, 2013 - The New York Times

A crucial clue in this smoking-fast new thriller is turned up by a “wheelman” — or car expert — who takes a BlackBerry photo of some muddy car tracks and using only his memory and an Internet connection is able to identify the tires that made those tread marks with 90 percent certainty in 10 minutes. “Wheelmen think differently from normal people,” says the novel’s narrator, known as Jack, who’s no slouch himself when it comes to details. “They see the little things.”


By Roger Hobbs
321 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $24.95.

Roger Hobbs - Michael Lionstar
The same might well be said of Roger Hobbs, the author of this debut crime novel. Mr. Hobbs — who graduated in 2011 from Reed College — seizes our attention and holds it tight, not so much through his plotting or his characters but through his sheer, masterly use of details, and the authoritative, hard-boiled voice he has fashioned for Jack.

Jack is a career criminal, or more specifically, a “ghostman,” who’s helped maybe a hundred bank robbers escape over the years. He’s an expert in “the business of disappearing”: adept at the arts of disguise and using fake identification — passports, driver’s licenses, birth certificates. He’s also a descendant of sorts of Lee Child’s (actually Jim Grant’s) Jack Reacher — he too is a ghost who has no address, no phone number and likes to travel light — and Richard Stark’s (Donald E. Westlake’s) coldblooded antihero Parker, an efficient, enigmatic professional thief with little inner life and even less family back story.

Five years ago Jack made a stupid mistake and screwed up a big bank heist in Kuala Lumpur. As a result several of his compatriots got busted, and his boss Marcus lost his reputation as an “international mastermind.” Overnight Marcus went from being a “jugmarker,” who “wrote heists the way Mozart wrote music” — “they were big and beautiful and made money like you wouldn’t believe” — to being a mere drug lord, and Jack is to blame.

It’s a miracle that Marcus hasn’t iced Jack, and Jack knows he owes him big time. And so when Marcus tracks Jack down and gives him a gnarly assignment, he readily agrees. His mission: to clean up a casino heist that’s gone south in Atlantic City, leaving one team member dead and another (who has the money) gravely wounded and missing. The feds are in hot pursuit, and a security device in the money — involving an exploding dye pack and a GPS device — is set to go off in 48 hours, which means the clock is ticking for Jack to find the cash. Worse, he soon finds himself caught between the ruthless Marcus and Marcus’s even more ruthless rival, the Wolf, an Atlantic City kingpin who once used drain cleaner dissolved in milk to kill a little girl. 

Full NY review here.

Story on my blog here - from 31 January. - in NZ Published by Doubleday - NZ$29.99

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