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by Richard Lange
Mulholland Books, July 2017, $26

I’m a big fan of stories with flawed characters, and The Smack serves them up in droves.

Rowan Petty is a con man down on his luck. His love interest, Tinafey, is a hooker looking for a way out of the life. His estranged daughter, Sam, refuses his help even though she desperately needs it. His ex-wife, Carrie, is a grifter still looking for the big score. A large part of the charm of this book lies in the relationship between Rowan and Tinafey; both too scared of being hurt to admit that they want to be together, they refuse to commit, yet keep finding ways to stay by each other’s side. Rowan’s need for his daughter’s approval also drives the story.

When given the chance to steal $2 million in Army money that was illegally smuggled out of Afghanistan, you want Rowan to succeed so that he can support the women who mean everything to him, even if it means that he’s putting his life, and the lives of others, on the line. It is a testament to the talent of the author that despite all evidence to the contrary, this story leaves you hoping for a happily-ever-after ending.

As you would expect in a story about the underbelly of society, there is violence, graft, and murder. What elevates the book is its many surprising moments of humor and tenderness. Even as all of the characters are racing to what you know can’t be a good end, you’re still rooting for things to work out for Rowan and the people he loves. While the odds aren’t in his favor, even gamblers deserve to win some times, right?

Vanessa Orr

lange smackLoveable underdogs, violence, graft, and murder, and many surprising moments of humor and tenderness.

Teri Duerr
July 2017
Mulholland Books