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Fred Fitch is just a normal guy who is constantly swindled by nearly every grifter, con man, con woman and thief in New York City. The main character is Fred who gets sucked up in a series of situations after having received $300K following his Uncle's death.
Not quite a comedy but very funny, not quite a drama but with dramatic moements and not quite a thriller this book is an interesting meditation on a single person and his growing awareness of those people around him.
While a completely different read than American Gods, I kept thinking how similar these two books are with the fish-out-of-water-but-just-going-with-it style. I listened to this story on audiobook and thought Oliver Wyman was an excellent choice.
Whether a fan of Donald E. Westlake or not, I would highly recommend this book.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I've been a fan of Westlake's Dortmunder books forever, and I think Oliver Wyman is an outstanding reader, so I went into this book with nothing but good expectations. What I came out of it with is...confusion & some disappointment. I knew Fred Fitch wasn't John Archibald Dortmunder, but at the beginning of the book he seems like John's spiritual cousin; another mild, likeable but sad sack, this guy on the receiving end of crime instead of the committing end. He's a mark for the Universe, a gullible sucker for any con man that comes within a mile of him. He falls for cons all the time & con men seem to smell it and practically line up at his door. And he always opens the door for them.
The book starts out reminiscent of Dortmunder in another way; it's quite funny & lighthearted and even if Fred is getting ripped of every time he turns around, it's not mean-spirited, and they're small amounts of money that don't leave you concerned that he's going to get tossed out into the street. Fifteen dollars was certainly worth more when the book is set than it does now, but Fred isn't facing financial ruin so we can laugh at his gullibility and misfortune without feeling mean.
But then Fred inherits over $300,000 from an uncle he didn't know existed (which he initially thinks is another con) and the book gradually turns darker. Some people get dead, and while it's not gory at all, there's fewer yucks when there's real corpses sitting around...tho heaven knows, as a lifelong fan of horror & murder mysteries, I'm not bothered by corpses per se. I guess what got me was the deterioration of Fred's character; he starts out knowing he's a gullible yutz and he has a sense of humor about it, a sort of amused exasperation at himself (which is shared by his friend Riley of the Bunco Squad...they've interacted so many times over the years that they've become fast friends, which is pretty funny in itself).
But Fred really gets bitter and loses his sense of humor entirely as the book progresses. Not to say I blame him, really --it seems somebody is trying to kill him, & various strange & deadly things are happening around him because of the money-- but the book just wasn't funny in the second half, maybe started turning grim about 1/3 of the way through.
If you've never read Westlake, I'd very strongly recommend not starting here; try any of the Dortmunder books (with the mammoth exception of the “Drowned Hopes” audiobook read by Arte Johnson; it is beyond hideous, past unlistenable, is so bad that all associated with it should be imprisoned). The first Dortmunder book, “The Hot Rock,” is terrific. So are the others…”Bank Shot,” “The Road to Ruin,” etc. They’re also well read, as is this one.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful