Alfred A. Knopf, $24.95, 321 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-95996-6
Who among us hasn’t dreamed, at one time or another, of chucking it all; going off the grid and living a life of anonymity? No name, no taxes and no responsibilities . . . answerable only to oneself and the whims of chance. Soon however, like running off to join the circus, or driving a Corvette from town to town along Route 66, all of these flights of fancy fade away like the daydreams they are. But . . . what if . . .
This week’s MBR is about just such an anonymous man. He’s elusive, doesn’t even exist in the piles of paper and digital ones and zeros that define all the rest of us. And he’s a criminal. Not a petty criminal either, but a master thief whose ability to disappear himself gives him the ability to make lots of other things disappear as well. Like problems.
Ghostman, by Roger Hobbs is a first novel by a young writer with talent dripping from his fingertips. He’s delivered one of the most interesting and well-researched crime-fiction novels of the year, and one which certainly gets my vote for a Best First Novel Edgar Award. The folks at Knopf must think so too. It was simultaneously published in sixteen countries around the world.
The novel opens with an armored truck robbery as it’s delivering $1.2 million in newly printed cash to one of Atlantic City’s largest casinos. It all goes haywire as soon as the money is stolen. The result is that one of the two robbers is shot dead by an unknown assassin, the other one is wounded, and the $1.2 million is missing. A call goes out from the organizer of the crime and a favor is called in. The ghostman, known as Jack, is called in to set things right: find the missing money, figure out who the mysterious killer is, and oh yeah, remain out of the clutches of the FBI . . . all in less than forty-eight hours, because a clock started ticking the second the money was stolen. That’s how long the timer-fuse on the bomb placed in the block of hundred-dollar bills by the Federal Reserve Printing Department has before it explodes and kills everyone in close proximity to it.
The action never stops. The pacing is relentless. The twists and turns keep coming with an intensity that ratchets up the tension in every paragraph and keeps the reader focused on every page. Ghostman is engaging, exciting and extraordinary. You don’t want to miss it if you’re a fan of crime fiction. Wow! Is all I can say in summation.