30 April 2013
Review: Sweet Money Won
The Book: Sweet Money Won by Mycroft Magnusson
Price: 77p (AKA 99c)
Review Category: Requested via email
The Blurb: Rick and Liam are small-time con artists from the Koreatown section of Los Angeles, who spend much of their time healing from the beatings dished out by disgruntled victims of their scams.
As if the pair’s troubles weren’t serious enough, Rick is addicted to internet pornography and falls in love with Amethyst, a mysterious web-cam girl he meets online. For his part, Liam has a gambling problem, which centers on a lifelong devotion to the New England Patriots.
When Rick learns his new love has been forced into prostitution by a gang of Russian sex-traffickers, he sets out to save her. To do this, he must betray his longtime partner and steal their life savings, which Liam has just bet on his beloved Patriots.
Things go horribly wrong, and the two friends find themselves scrambling for cash to stave off their leg-breaking Korean bookies. With only three days to raise all the money, the partners—along with Amethyst—hatch a desperate scheme to blackmail a philandering US congressman.
Can they pull off their audacious plan, or will jealousy and suspicion tear them apart? Finally, what is the web-cam girl’s dark secret, and can these two screw-ups survive long enough to learn the terrible truth?
It’s all-in for Rick and Liam—the debut novel from Mycroft Magnusson, Sweet Money Won is a sexy, funny crime thriller, balancing character-driven suspense with a comic portrait of masculinity in crisis.
Preview Available: The usual Amazon look inside thing.
Would I buy this (again)? : Possibly.
The Product: Your usual Kindle e-book, pricey paperback also available.
The Nitty Gritty: I'm going to resort to the well known doo-doo sandwich method for reviewing Sweet Money Won. It earned its four stars from me and the reasons for this are numerous. A number of clever, funny comic vignettes. Some energetic card play writing. Sexy scenes that allowed the reader space enough not to feel a cringe coming on, a good variety of situations and character interactions.
Sweet Money Won does its work, it's well edited (often a concern when it comes to indie works even now). The book earns its place in my heart as a collision between murky hard-boiled crime fiction and sexy farce that manages to work despite its extremes.
So Sweet Money Won is well-written and a bit different, both of which qualify it as a worthwhile read. Having said this the book sailed close to the wind for me. It scrapes its four stars rather than being an assured winner. I nearly didn't finish it. If there was one thing that stood out as making the book a chore it was the length.
Don't get me wrong it's only possibly a shade longer than much commercial fiction in the thriller genre. Amazon gives the print length as 405 pages. I did a quick comparison against some other thrillers by Donald E. Westlake, James Ellroy and Raymond Chandler. Sweet Money Won is around the same sort of length as LA Confidential. Raymond Chandler always kept his stuff around the 200 page mark.
Why is this important? I don't think that Chandler consciously kept his stuff brief any more than I think Ellroy beefed up LA Confidential. Let's not forget that the latter title has three intertwining plot strands that shift around and about one another to build up the whole story. Assumedly in both of these cases the authors just kept writing until they ran out of story.
Sweet Money Won does not feel like this. It feels like it has been bulked up, there are at least three subplots which are not strictly speaking necessary to get the story from A to B.
When a pair of protagonists, such as Magnusson's Liam and Rick, are going to be such exhausting company it is almost certain that less would be more. The novel is obviously a set up for a recurring series of adventures and, as such, some parts of the novel that clearly weren't going anywhere could have done well to fall to the red pencil.
Having said that I could not single out a scene that was poorly written or not at all amusing (the opening section I made a note that I found it quite depressing for about the first 15% of the book but I did keep going). The problem is not with one particular moment or the writing in any one scene it's in the sheer bulk of it. In the end Sweet Money Won is an enormous, violent, smutty shaggy dog story of a book that gets away with not overstaying its welcome just as its protagonists get away with the bundles of cash suggested by the title.