BookHound
Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

FAKE I. D. by Jason Starr

Jason Starr Fake I D

I don’t know that much about crime author Jason Starr, but I’m confident he’s turned over rocks at midnight in dark alleys most people wouldn’t go at high noon. Starr has a real knack for getting into the twisted and brutal psyche of fringe dwellers, like the one he introduces in his latest novel, Fake I. D.

Tommy Russo is a sometime actor, a full-time bartender, and a gambling addict that never met a losing horse he wouldn’t bet on. Or anything else that would lose for that matter. Starr presents this character almost sympathetically in the beginning, showing that maybe he’s just had some bad breaks, and probably he has.

But the novel picks up right as those fissures in the character become gaping chasms and boost Russo to the point of no return. Despite his faults, everyone seems to like Russo, and I believed it. I’ve met guys like Russo who are likeable yet deeply flawed. Starr manages to show both sides of his character, and his first-person voice detailing Russo’s thought processes and rationales for what he’s doing is fantastic.

While I turned the pages, Russo was a living, breathing person for me. I hung out with him at the track, felt his frustrations at the commercial audition, and got to know everyone at O’Reilly’s bar where he worked. But even as I got to know him, I became afraid for him and of what he was going to do.

Starr really puts the pressure on his character and piles up bad luck as well as bad choices till it all hits the fan. The last half of the book is tightly written and keeps the reader on his toes, like watching a car wreck happen in slow motion.

The dialogue is great, and Starr demonstrates that he has a fantastic ear for listening to other people speak. So many of the characters in the book that surround Russo are defined by their conversations with him and how they treat him. The relationships, especially the one with bar owner Frank O’Reilly, are especially well done. Guys like Tommy Russo attract the crowd he runs with, and no one is safe.

The plot hangs together well, and there is a lot of side action taking place on the table as well. It’s Russo’s temptation to own 20 percent of a racehorse that really spurs the story on to the finish line. As everything falls apart around him, he becomes convinced that owning that horse will change his luck and his life.

The book is spare and lean, and the story is actually a small one, but Starr throws it at his readers like a vicious left hook that will leave the audience reeling, turning pages late into the night.

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