Today’s book review of a comic crime novel is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
The Good Thief’s Guide to Vegas by Chris Ewan
Synopsis: During a brief trip to Vegas, Charlie Howard – mystery writer and professional thief – is nonplussed to find his agent, Victoria, being charmed by a stage illusionist at a high stakes roulette table. It doesn’t help that the illusionist, Josh Masters, has invited Victoria to his sell-out show, nor that he seems to be doing very well at roulette. Still, Charlie’s not one to hold a grudge, least of all when he could be holding Masters’ wallet. Breaking into the conjurer’s hotel room and making off with a pile of casino chips would seem to be adequate compensation. Matters are complicated however when Charlie discovers the trussed-up corpse of Masters’ beautiful assistant lying in the bath. When Masters disappears and Charlie is caught with his stolen haul of high denomination chips, his problems have only just begun. Ordered to reimburse the casino for every dollar Masters made off with, it seems to Charlie there’s only one way out: break into as many hotel rooms as he can, steal as much as he is able to, and just hope that Victoria can summon lady luck to the gaming table of her choice.
Review (of the audiobook)
I listened to the first half of this novel to / from last month’s Theakston’s Crime Festival at Harrogate, Yorkshire*, and the second half while walking my dog. *Chris was there – we’ve met a few times – and it was handy telling him I was reading his novel. He said how much he had enjoyed writing them… understandably – it was great fun to listen to). Hopefully he’ll do more but if not, I still have a few others to work through.
So, as you can gather this will largely be a positive review (and shorter than normal because of being unable to make notes in the car but the summary is here).
There are many brilliant phrases including a character ‘losing to a cliché’, another who ‘spoke in italics’ and ‘Oceans Two on a really tight budget’ and ‘I sighed again as if to bookend my reading experience’. I loved the contrast between the diminutive and mountainous criminals and enjoyed reacquainting myself with them later in the story.
A deadline is always a great plot point and it keeps the pace going, although the events in this novel needed little help. As time went on, I wondered how everything would get done in time – and how Charlie would get out of every sticky situation – and it’s a skilled writer who achieves this believably. Chris clearly has that skill.
And now for writers…
- There were some clichés including ‘stopped me in my tracks’, a few unnecessary ‘absolutely’s and ‘completely’s, and ‘began to’ / ‘started to’ when the action is happening rather than being interrupted (something I’ve picked up on in almost every review I’ve done.
- ‘long moment’ is a phrase I’ve never been a fan of and there were at least four here.
- Coincidences are best kept to a minimum in fiction and while there were a few in this novel, only one felt one too many but Charlie referred to it as just his luck (or lack of it) which made it fit.
Brilliant characters interpreted by a superb narrator. A novel with more twists than Rapunzel’s plait and for me, just the start of my Good Thief’s reading experience.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, 2015 Head Judge for the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition, RONE 2015 Judge, and creative writing tutor for her local county council and online tutor. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page) and has created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has nine others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.