Review: Somebody Owes Me Money

Somebody Owes Me Money

Talk about prodigious outputs! Donald E. Westlake is a legend. Over a hundred novels, many under pseudonyms, mostly in crime but also in other genres as well. He was in the back of mind from some conversation this past week, so when I went to the library this week to return books I checked to see if they had any Westlake and sure enough, they did (not that my shiny shiny iPad Rook isn’t groaning with books to be read >_<). This one looked like fun.

First published in 1969, Somebody Owes Me Money got this shiny new edition from Hard Case Crime in 2008. The main character is the hapless Chet Conway, cab driver and inveterate gambler. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he generally catches on eventually. There’s something fun about writing a character that’s going to be less swift than the reader and Chet fills the bill. The brilliant opening line plays with the gradual reveal: “I bet none of it would have happened if I wasn’t so eloquent.”

What happens is that Chet gets the tip of a lifetime, scores big, goes round to his bookie Tony and finds him dead. And then Tony’s wife arrives and eventually the police and things don’t look so good. Chet manages to get the police to believe he didn’t kill Tony, but the next thing you know the bookie’s sister Abbie arrives with a gun in hand, sure he did murder her brother and ready to get revenge.

Chet and Abbie make a winning pair, bickering and working at cross-purposes; she’s way out of his league and Chet’s constantly surprised to find her in the vicinity. If it weren’t for Abbie, he’d have bought it in the first few chapters, which brings out his chivalrous desire to protect her, though as even he realises, “Abbie McKay was no helpless damsel in distress. She could take care of herself, that girl, I was sure of it.”

Fun stuff: suspense, twists and turns as well as laugh out loud moments. Full of those nice little touches that give a richness to the story and fill in its world, like everyone arriving out of breath from the long walk up to Jerry’s fifth floor apartment or the insane insurance calculations that obsess Chet’s dad. Well worth a ride.

~ K. A. Laity

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1 Comment

  1. Reblogged this on 13 Shots Of Grit.


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