Tour’s Books Blog

February 16, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie

Long before House became a popular TV series, before actor Hugh Laurie was well know in the US, he wrote a book. A very good book. The Gun Seller.

“Imagine that you have to break someone’s arm.

Right or left, it doesn’t matter. The point is you have to break it, because if you don’t …… well, that doesn’t matter either. Let’s say bad things will happen if you don’t.

Now, my question goes like this: do you break the arm quickly – snap, whoops, sorry, here let me help you with that improvised splint – or, do you drag the whole business out for a good eight minutes, every now and then increasing the pressure in the tiniest increments, until the pain becomes pink and green and hot and cold and altogether howlingly unbearable.

Well exactly. Of course. The right thing to do, the only thing to do, is to get it over with as quickly as possible. Break the arm, ply the brandy, be a good citizen. There can be no other answer.

Unless.

Unless, unless, unless.”

The arm being broken – and very, very slowly, is Thomas Lang’s, ex-para and minor thug for hire. But he does have scruples. Not many, but some. He doesn’t kill people. OK, he doesn’t kill people for money and the guy trying to break his arm doesn’t count. What follows is a caper thriller novel in the best tradition of Ross Thomas or Donald E Westlake. Blackmailed by threats to do something he really doesn’t want any part of, he never stops looking for the edge that will get him out alive.  Clever, witty dialogue and lots of plot twists keeps things moving.  No one is who they seem, not even Thomas Lang, who might just have a shade more good guy in him than he likes to admit. Written in the first person, with verve and character, Lang is an observant, sarcastic, sanguine about his circumstances, and morally flexible about most things when it comes to his own survival and that of the woman he’s become attached to. When the dust settles, he knows he has to ‘do the right thing’. And he does.

This book was a surprise and a very pleasant one. Settle in and go for a ride.

My Grade: A-

Who would like this book: Fans of caper novels by Donald E Westlake, Ross Thomas, Lawrence Block’s burglar series and those who like Blackadder TV series.  My rating would be PG-17

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