Review by John for: Lucky Bastard (ARC edition) ~ by S.G. Browne (April 2012)
A fantasy noir comedy thriller about a private investigator who is also a poacher and seller of luck.
About: Nick Monday has inherited a rare ability to poach luck from people. So he sets himself up as a secret trader in this precious commodity, selling luck to anyone who can afford it, and also seeking out particular types of luck for anyone who can afford his customized service. With no cares about either the people he has stolen it from or the motives of the people who buy it from him, he steals and sells other’s good luck. And, despite the dangers, occasionally he deals in bad luck.
Nick is not entirely alone in this odd profession. To hide their abilities and to protect themselves, Nick and other luck poachers live somewhat itinerant lives, constantly changing their identities and moving on from one town to another whenever they feel things are starting to get too hot. Currently Nick is working as a private investigator in San Francisco.
The book covers a crazy 24-hour period in Nick’s life which starts when the mayor’s daughter hires Nick to recover the mayor’s stolen luck. In quick succession a local Chinese crime lord coerces Nick into searching for the purest form of good luck, a secret government agent forces him to try and slip some bad luck to the Chinese gangster, an attractive scooter-riding girl appears to start poaching luck on Nick’s territory, and a second woman turns up also claiming to be the mayor’s daughter. When everything starts falling apart and Nick’s life is in danger, it seems that a huge dose of bad karma is now blighting his life.
John’s thoughts: This is a rather unique premise for a story and Browne has a lot of fun with the idea - describing how luck is transferred and what impact losing and gaining luck has on people. The author develops the notion that luck is a highly addictive drug, creating a hierarchy of different types of luck, imagining what types of people might get involved in the luck market, and creating a twisty plot that is all packed into a single day. It is a fast-paced story that is easy and quick to read, and it has plenty of chuckles on the way.
The plot is filled with an oddball bunch of characters, but it all revolves around Nick Monday who is a cynical, sarcastic, couldn’t-give-a-hoot type of man. You’ll probably either love him or hate him as he moves through his strange life and odd escapades, and ultimately tries to make some sort of amends for the things that he’s done. Struggling through the day he has to deal with the femme fatale Tuesday Knight, the evil gangster Tommy Wong, a federal agent who looks like Barry Manilow, a scathing (but dead) father, a totally obnoxious boy who might just be loaded with the most pure good luck available, an irritating vegan chauffeur, and a sidekick who wants to be a cool gangsta rapper. As you can probably tell, it’s a fun read.
For me a couple of things dragged a bit with this book. Nick Monday’s deep thoughts about the nature of luck were a smidgeon over the top; and the “hero” is basically a jerk – I often have trouble really resonating with a book when I can’t relate with the lead character. Beyond that it was an enjoyable read and I smiled a lot. I’d rate this humorous noire 3 stars and recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of tongue-in-cheek reading.
Scott G. Browne is the author of Breathers (Broadway 2009), a dark comedy about life after undeath, Fated (NAL 2010), is a comedy about fate, destiny, and the consequences of getting involved in the lives of humans. Scott was born in Arizona and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He currently lives and writes in San Francisco.
Thanks again for reading.