Casino heist goes wrong!
Ghostman (#1 Jack White) by Roger Hobbs
Published 2013, 400 pages
A while back I was shopping at Half-Price Books and came across this book. I read it many years ago and didn’t really remember it except that I knew I had really liked it. So, I bought it and just finished re-reading it. I enjoyed it this time also. Be warned it is pretty violent if that bothers you – there are a couple of especially graphic torture scenes in particular.
This debut novel was nominated for several "first book" awards.
A ghostman is someone who is good at disappearing and good at disguises – two qualities needed after pulling a heist. “Jack” (we never learn his real name) is an expert at this. When the robbery of an Atlantic City casino goes bad, Jack is hired by master criminal Marcus (to whom he owes a favor) to track down the money. Along the way we learn about what to pack in a getaway bag, how to tell if money is fake, the best way to rob a casino, and how to disguise yourself. I found these descriptions entertaining. However, some of the detailed descriptions of types of guns and their ammo got to be boring.
The story switches between the casino robbery and the bank robbery Jack did for Marcus five years earlier which also went sour because of a mistake by Jack, explaining why he now owes Marcus a favor. I found the logistics of planning and pulling off a robbery in a bank that has maximum security an equally entertaining story line.
Before the casino robbery, when one of the robbers receives a call from Marcus, it’s described as:
“The phone rang again. That special ringtone. The caller had little tolerance for lateness, less for incompetence and none for failure. The man’s reputation relied on that sort of totalizing kind of fear that could cow federal agents and keep murderers and rapists as obedient as schoolchildren.”
When Jack hires an expert wheelman (the getaway driver in any robbery) to try and determine what happened to a burned-up car used in the robbery, he describes part of the encounter:
“He walked slowly around the thin mud tracks and examined the grooves in the treads. He ran his finger over the surface of the passenger’s-side window just to get a feel for it. It was like saying hello, even with the fumes gathering all around him. He was building a relationship with the car the way another man would with a horse, or a gun, or a computer.”
Jack’s a big reader and translates Latin and Greek books. When talking to a man that Marcus has arranged to assist Jack in getting whatever he needs to recover the money, he says, “I want you to understand why I’m doing this. It’s a quote from a book. It’s also a personal motto. That one line summed up everything I’d been feeling up until then. It means, If you can’t reach heaven, raise hell.”
I liked hearing about Jack’s process for finding the money, his investigative techniques, and the trail he followed. This book was nonstop action from the start, very well written, and obviously researched thoroughly. What’s pretty impressive is that Hobbs wrote this debut book while a senior in college. He wrote a sequel shortly after and then tragically died of a drug overdose at a young age.
photo of Atlantic City via Feisdra @unsplash