Back Door to Hell - Paul Gadsby

“Choices don’t line up for you. They fall in your lap or they slap you in the face”.

 

Ah, kids these days. It’s all fun & games ’til someone steals a whack of cash from a crazy mobster. But it seemed like such a good idea at the time….

 

Nate Stokes hasn’t had a lot of luck lately. At 22, he’s lost his crummy job & gone on the dole. And thanks to his brother, he now has to spend a month working for a local gangster. For free. Nate reports to a snooker club in south London to begin a bartending gig. And that’s where he meets Jen.

 

Jen Whittaker may be young but she already knows how things work. With few prospects, she works part time at a snooker club & dreams of something better. In fact, she already has an idea on how to make that happen but she can’t do it alone. Then she meets Nate.

 

Crawford is an old school crime boss who’s worked hard for his place at the top. He has a string of legitimate businesses that are perfect for laundering money from his illegal sidelines. He’s smart & when it comes to getting the cash together, he always chooses a quiet place to avoid unwanted attention. Like his snooker club.

 

But someone IS paying attention. Jen’s been keeping track of the routine shipments & has a plan to liberate enough of the money to buy herself a future. And it’s not too hard to sell Nate on the idea. Sure, he’s dazzled by her. But he’s also intrigued by the chance to leave his crappy life behind. What could go wrong?

 

Well, as it turns out, several things. Before they know it Nate, Jen & the money are on the run with Crawford in relentless pursuit. Getting the money back is crucial for business. But it’s also about salvaging his reputation & maintaining his position in the crime world food chain.

 

What follows is a fast paced & entertaining story of 2 young people attempting to survive long enough to begin again. It’s like an intricate game of cat-and-mouse as they try to stay one step ahead of a man with seemingly endless resources. The action & plot twists alone are enough to keep you turning the pages. But there are a couple of elements that make this stand out as more than a great gritty tale about a heist gone wrong.

 

First, the author’s style. The prose is smooth & clean with enough detail to provide atmosphere but never at the expense of pace. Second, the characters. Nate, Jen & Crawford are the MC’s & each is engaging & well developed. Their personal backgrounds add dimension & help us understand how & why they’ve ended up in the current situation. A large peripheral cast add colour & interest to the main story line.

 

As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think ahead & wonder how it would end. There are several choices, at least one of which would have been disappointingly unrealistic. Thankfully, the author chose an ending that is sobering yet oddly hopeful. And now I have a new (to me) author to follow.