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Crime & Beyond met last Monday to discuss Ghostman by Roger Hobbs. Mr. Hobbs wasn’t just a first time for us author, is also a first time author. He wrote the book during his senior year in college and sent the manuscript to an agent on the day he graduated. Out of that came this debut novel, which some are calling a “heist thriller.”

The book is a ticking time bomb of sorts. A couple of people who reviewed the book thought it would be better named “How to Rob a Bank” or “Robbing Banks for Idiots.” The book follows Jack, the lead character and aforementioned Ghostman, as he works against the clock to put the pieces together and figure out how a bank heist went wrong…..and to find the money. We also flash back to a heist in Kuala Lumpur in order to find out why Jack is obligated to step in and help with the Atlantic City clean up.

According to the author, “a ghostman is an identity thief geared for criminal organizations.” They don’t exist, except in Roger’s imagination, but other terms such as “wheelman” and “box man” are real. Although, for those of you out there who believe everything they read, even in fiction, the author has something to say about all of the facts included in this literary how-to. In an interview Hobbs says , “If you believe everything that I tell you in Ghostman, you are a fool.” He freely admits to using his own imagination to supplement actual facts. So Jeff and Dave, hold off on that casino heist you’re planning. The instructions and measurements might be incomplete.

As is our usual M.O., we had a few low scores (a 2, two 5s, and two 6s – the fact that I am calling a 6 low should tell you something). We also had a few high scores (one 10, one 10+, one 11ish-I believe I am reading that correctly-one 9, three 7s and…….a whopping ten 8s – and one was really an 8.5, the extra half point added for the fact that it was a debut novel). I think those are some pretty good scores all around.

The negative comments were primarily related to the fact that the characters weren’t well developed, both Jack and the female FBI agent. Because of that, many said that they wanted the additional info on Jack (the PDF that was unlocked via the puzzle and also included in the ebooks) to be part of the book rather than supplemental. Basically, it just wasn’t a page turner for everyone.

On the positive side, many of us liked the two storylines: Atlantic City and Kuala Lumpur. Where the low scores came from people who weighed in that they didn’t like the step-by-step instruction manual feel, others really loved the details – even if half of them were fake. Seriously Dave and Jeff, cancel the heist. Jose and I don’t handle criminal cases. Lorraine compared it to a Jack Reacher book, following the lone hero as he goes about kicking butt and taking names (my words not Lorraine’s). Amy compared it to a Leverage episode, and she loves Leverage. Lastly, my favorite comment came from Janice, and I quote, “enjoyable, la, la, la.” I think that says it all.

We want to give a warm Crime & Beyond welcome to Ashley, Jose’s wife, who joined us for the first time this month. Not only did she read the book and give her feedback, but she managed to do a little bit of name dropping. And the name she dropped you ask? Why Dexter, of course. Ashley, you’re already one of us.

In reading the book, some of us followed that ever present fishy smell (also known as a Red Herring) and thought that the FBI Agent was going to turn out to be Jack’s mentor from Kuala Lumpur. At the end of the book, though, it didn’t appear that that was the case. However, if you were listening when I spewed out the loads of research I did on the author (ok, so I read a couple of interviews and perused his website) you may remember that I mentioned the sequel that is yet to be published. Not only was he working on a sequel at the time of the interview, but here’s what he says about it: “there will be a few characters returning from Ghostman,” and “the plot will have you flipping back through the earlier book for clues. I want the books in this series to fit together like puzzle pieces, and the sequel will do just that. The Ghostman ending is a cliff-hanger and you might not even know it!” Hmmmm, I’m intrigued. The next book is called Vanishing Games and is due out in Spring 2015. Here’s what the website says:

After a heist in Macau, China goes badly, a criminal mastermind known only as Angela must call upon her old friend Jack, the Ghostman, to help her fix things before her head ends up in a box. But as soon as Jack arrives, he finds himself embroiled in a criminal conspiracy bigger than he has ever seen. Can he find Angela and help her escape before they both become the target of an international manhunt?

We got some slap votes for Markus and Wolf, but I didn’t really take a full slap vote count. So we’re gonna slap each of them once and let the others go slap free. Maybe I was just feeling slap-generous, or maybe I’m celebrating Slapsgiving 4 months early. Either way, most of the characters got a pass.

Next month Jack Reacher is back, probably still kicking butt and taking names. We will meet on August 25th to discuss Never Go Back by Lee Child. Some of you pledged that you would “never go back” to another Reacher book. But as my 4-year-old niece would say “you’re gonna have to suck it up.” That’s the fun part about a Democracy, you can’t always get what you want. So show up if you want, don’t if you don’t. But on the 25th we will be talking about Jack and I, for one, am wondering what Walmart outfit he’ll show up in.

There were only a few Lee Child books and they were handed out in June. Terri will email me when more come in, but I know Lorraine already returned one and let us all know. Until then, you know the drill: read, return, announce.

Thanks,

Kerry

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