BookHound
Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

The Wheelman, by Duane Swierczynski

Cover Image  At Amazon

I’ve always loved crime novels.  There’s something about the excitement of running with criminals being chased by worse criminals and by crooked cops.  Donald Westlake as a series of novels under his pen name, Richard Stark, about a professional thief named Parker that are awesome, and they’ve been around for 40 years.  Lee Marvin even played in a movie based on one of the books (Point Blank), and more recently Mel Gibson did the same (Payback).

While reading through Amazon’s list of suggestions after another recent purchase, I found Duane Swierczynski’s The Wheelman.  You have to admit, the cover looks really cool, all stark red, white, and black.  And it’s about a wheelman, a getaway driver, that made me think of both those cool Transporter movies.

So, succumbing to temptation, I ordered the book.  Swierczynsky is the editor-in-chief of Philadelphia City Paper and the author of a non-fiction book, This Here’s A Stick-Up, about real bank robbers and their craft.

The novel features Lennon, a professional getaway driver, and the bank job he’s doing as part of a three-man crew.  The novel opens up on them in the middle of the robbery when everything is a busted play and it looks like the devil is about to get his due.  This leads to a high-speed chase which ends up with the car getting T-boned by a large van that appears out of nowhere, letting Lennon know something has gone horribly wrong.

The action picks up again as Lennon’s body is getting disposed of.  Only he’s not dead and he’s not going without a fight.  He manages to get free, killing his captors, and begins a grueling night trying to stay alive and get back the money from the bank job.

Only, as it turns out, one of the guys Lennon killed was the son of a violent Russian mafia boss who wants revenge for his son’s death.  Lennon knows he’s been set up, but he can’t figure out who did it – except maybe his “sister” Katie.  The first thing, though, is to stay alive.  Then he has to find the money and get out of
Philadelphia.

The Wheelman offers an intimate look into the violent world of criminals.  Swierczynski writes with grim authority and a no-hold-barred attitude that slams the reader between the eyes repeatedly.  I enjoyed the short, punchy prose and compact chapters, and felt hurled to the end rather than along for the ride.

Despite the fact that the book reads quickly, it also has to be read carefully.  There are many characters, many different plot strands on a collision course, and the tides change throughout the novel as Lennon allies himself first with one faction, then with another, only to get betrayed and betrayed again.

Swierczynski’s new novel, The Blonde, comes out in November and offers what looks like another blistering read.

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One Response to “The Wheelman, by Duane Swierczynski”

  1. This one sounds like a good read


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