Audiobook Review: Gutshot Straight by Lou Berney

8 01 2013

Gutshot Straight by Lou Berney

Read by Edoardo Ballerini

Audible, Inc.

Length: 9 Hrs 10 Min

Genre: Crime Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Gutshot Straight is cleverly plotter crime caper that never takes itself too seriously. Lou Berney’s debut offers plenty of tense moments, quirky characters and whole lot of laughs. Fans of Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard and Tim Dorsey should now add Lou Berney to their must read lists.

Grade: B+

Note: This week I will be featuring books that I choose to listen to based on reviews and “Best of 2012…” posts by my fellow bloggers which I will be linking at the end of this post.

Years ago, as a teenager I developed the rule of happy endings. I was rereading one of my favorite novels at the time, Dean Koontz’s The Servants of the Twilight, a novel full of chase scenes and mayhem, and I couldn’t help but wonder about all the unintended consequences. You see, for a novel or movie to have a happy ending, all the good looking people must survive. No matter what havoc they wreak on us average to just a tad homely people out there, as long as they make it to the end in one piece, we the audience can head home happy thinking that all is right with the world. Yet, I cannot help but think about that poor guy, coming out from MacDonald’s to find that his car has been stolen. Maybe he would be happy to learn that his car was stolen by some good looking people who were trying to evade a murderous cult, but just maybe he ends up late to work, gets fired, than can’t afford to send his kid to college. Maybe that young girl whose car collides with the cop car our modelesque protagonists are racing away from will suffer a traumatic brain injury, never going on to have a career or raise a family. While we cheer our mysterious raven haired beauty who can now break open a conspiracy by a shadowy government agency, the unintended consequences of her high speed chases and crazy shoot outs may harm society more than if the conspiracy was allowed to linger. I for one, have always wished there was a book of the stories of these unintended consequences, the guy who breaks his leg diving out of the way of chasing baddies, the young store clerk traumatized by the staged robbery our good guy performs to bide time, and all us poor tax payers who most pay the bill for the charming hero’s explody heroics.

Charles "Shake" Bouchon really should have known better. Finally released from prison after a three year stint, Shake is offered a simple job by a beautiful crime boss who just happened to be his ex-lover. Yet, the simple job gets more complex when the car he is given to deliver to a shady figure in Vegas just happens to have a beautiful women tied up in the trunk. Not willing to turn the women over to her death, Shake is now hunted by a variety of shadowy characters while attempting a big score than may just land him that restaurant he always wanted. Gutshot Straight is a clever and fast paced crime caper reminiscent of early Carl Hiaasen. Berney has a winner of a character in the likeable but oh, so maddening Shake. Shake is flawed and often over his head, yet has a surprising reserve of clever problem solving and an ability to act when acting is what needs to be done. There were times that I wanted to slap Shake, thinking he was naive, but as I began to understand the character, I realized it really wasn’t naiveté, just an acceptance and connection to his emotional flaws.  Berney rounds out his cast with a bunch of quirky characters that are odd and endearing in their way but never over the top. Gutshot Straight is full of humor, much of it coming from the ridiculousness of the caper itself, yet, Berney never goes for the easy joke or simplistic gag, instead permeates the text with  light hearted almost whimsical feel that balances out the violence and mayhem of the story. Yet, my favorite part of story is Berney’s ability to tie in not just the major storylines, but small offshoots of the unintended consequences of the tale. Often, Berney will take you down an unexpected road, yet find a way to veer it right back into the oncoming traffic of the plot. This gives the story a lot of heart, reminding me, in a strange way, of some of the better written Seinfeld episodes, where something you sort of write off ends up tying the story together. Gutshot Straight is cleverly plotter crime caper that never takes itself too seriously. Lou Berney’s debut offers plenty of tense moments, quirky characters and whole lot of laughs. Fans of Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard and Tim Dorsey should now add Lou Berney to their must read lists.

Edoardo Ballerini captures the whimsical tone of Berney’s writing perfectly as he brings Shake and a cast full of scum bags, strippers, soft spoken muscle and out of their league everymen to life. This is my second Edoardo Ballerini narration yet, even with that small sample, I can easily say he is one of the few "complete package" narrators who I would be comfortable listening to read almost anything. He has an almost low key voice, that initially you feel he will be taking the minimalist approach, with only slight tonal changes, but as more and more characters get thrown into the mix, Ballerini gives them their own well thought out voices making them each memorable. Ballerini reads with a light hearted brisk pace, always moving the story ahead, yet also delivering the complicated ending with an almost visually cinematic feel. The listener never gets muddled down in the action, but is given a bird’s eye view of everything going on. Ballerini is a narrator that I definitely will continue to keep my eye out for, knowing that whatever he reads, he will be an excellent guide.

What Other Have Said:

Jen Forbus, my go to femme fatale of crime fiction, introduced me to Lou Berney in her Favorite Reads of 2012 Post. Check out her review of Gutshot Straight.

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One response

24 01 2013
Jen Forbus

Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one!!

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