cover image Whiplash River

Whiplash River

Lou Berney. Morrow, $14.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-211528-7

Berney takes his rightful place as heir to Elmore Leonard with this witty and nimble comedic thriller, a sequel to his first novel, Gutshot Straight (2010). Charles “Shake” Bouchon, once a getaway driver for the Armenian mafia in Southern California, wants to go straight. After a second stint in prison for grand theft auto, he’s bought a restaurant in Belize. The food’s good, but business is slow, and Shake is falling behind on his payments to Baby Jesus, the local drug lord who bankrolled this new venture. But that’s just the beginning of Shake’s problems: when a mysterious operator named Quinn is nearly killed in Shake’s dining room, Shake is drawn into a circuitous plot involving fertility tourism, exotic animal smuggling, a murderous oil and gas executive (he’s in fracking, of course), and an Ocean’s 11–style heist of a priceless artifact that Quinn tricks Shake into believing is the nose of the Sphinx. The exotic locales are vibrant, the supporting cast larger than life, and the plot hums along without a wasted page. Agent: Richard Parks. (July)