Proof Positive that Author Photographs Work!
I didn't expect it to be a great work of literature, and it's not. But what The Gun Seller is, is a fun, fast, twisty romp of a spy thriller. Thomas Lang, ex-Scots Guard and general layabout, was drifting along just fine until the day he was offered a large sum of money to kill a wealthy businessman. Lang, of course, doesn't want the job, thank you very much, but he gets sucked into a tangled scheme involving dangerous and obscenely rich arms dealers, amateur terrorist plots, minor foreign dignitaries, the CIA, a groundbreaking new model of fighter helicopter that will mean tankerloads of money to the government (US, British, both, who knows?), and a pretty girl before he can even open a fresh bottle of Scotch. Blackmailed on several fronts, Lang is forced to be a bad guy, which he manages to do pretty well, but not without several layers of guilt weighing on his conscience and making him determined to find a way to flip the script on the guys holding the reins.
One thing that keeps the plot moving so quickly is the simple fact that not only does Lang not know who the good guys are, but neither does the reader. There were times where I said to myself, "Sweet baby Jesus, I thought he was on our side! And what the hell is she doing helping that guy over there when she was snuggling up to Lang last night? Whore!" Nothing about the plot or characters is black and white; the entire story is washed in shades of gray. Just when you think you know what's going on, you turn the page and realize there's a window where you believed a wall stood, or a wall where there should have been a door. The reader experiences every shift, twist, and loop right along with Lang, and his quest for the truth becomes yours as you race towards the end looking for the way out. You can't even be sure if Lang is a good guy who learned to be bad, or a bad guy trying to make good, or both. Nor does Lang; he's just kind of making it up as he goes along, pulling out his old spy/special ops skills and flying by the seat of his sexy pants while trying to stay alive and avert World War III, and some of his moves are downright stunning - at one point, I kind of wanted to sit up and applaud.
Honestly, the novel is a blast. The conversational tone made me picture Laurie, sitting in a leather armchair with a drink at his elbow, just spinning out this yarn while we relaxed in front of a fire on a chilly day. Lang is a fantastic protagonist, just a sort of everyman with some specially-acquired military skills who would prefer to mind his own business but has just a little more under the surface than you would expect. The plot double-crosses and then twists back on itself, but it's never too complicated to follow, with just enough sex and violence thrown in. The dialogue is organic and snappy and the characters given the right bit of nuance to make them interesting without taking over.
Go ahead, try it. Those eyes are begging you.
Nicole Fuscia is a book critic for Pajiba. She lives in Philadelphia, where she listens to the soothing hip hop melodies of Bel Biv Devoe and pursues her lifelong goal: To perfect the Turk dance.