Review - FAST AND LOOSE, Nicholas J Johnson
Readers were introduced to Joel Fitch and his mentor Richard Mordecai in the first book of this series, CHASING THE ACE. This second book, FAST AND LOOSE, starts up where the first left off, with Fitch and Mordecai parted ways, and Fitch left holding the cash. Rather a lot of cash straight out of Mordecai's life long ill-gotten gains. Fitch's not altogether comfortable with this as the double-cross he thought caused their split, wasn't at all, and he feels very guilty that his old friend and teacher is now on the lam.
Fitch has led a fractured sort of a life, so it makes sense that he flees Melbourne partly to seek out his much estranged father in Sydney, and partly in search of Mordecai and the opportunity for some bridge repair. Which puts him in the path of a dodgy pyramid scheme that his father's got involved with, and a scheming tabloid news producer. Whilst the scams that Fitch finds himself performing to camera feel pretty real, there's an interesting game of one-upmanship being played here - with neither party quite sure who is winning.
Obviously this author (known as "The Honest Conman") knows the world of scams and scammers really well. That insider knowledge makes the various schemes, scams, stunts and games being played extremely realistic and deceptive. None of which would work anywhere near as well were Johnson not a great storyteller into the bargain. Fitch, dodgy as he may be, is a really sympathetic character, a bit daft, a bit vulnerable, clever but not an immoral crook, his desire to do right by his old mentor is a really nice touch.
Most of the conmen, scammers and oddballs he comes across throughout the life of the story are also compelling, frequently kind and part of a community. Sure it's a community with some dodgy habits at the centre of it - but it feels like a community nonetheless. Everyone knows Mordecai in particular, and often look upon him with affection and great loyalty. Contrasted against this nice guy is Danny the tabloid producer. Who is everything you'd expect from that job title, and yet, a family man with affection for those that he loves. His behaviour at work however, with colleagues, and in the pursuit of a story is ruthless, but it's not without humour and not without a certain sense of awareness of what he is.
Add to that a bit of action, lots of humour, the potential for a bit of love, and reveals that would make The Flim Flam man a happy chappy indeed (presumably a big hat tip to the movie in these novels).
It's not essential that you read both of them in the right order either, although as with any series, it always helps, particularly when they are as readable as these books. Great crime fiction for those that find the constant concentration on murder a bit wearing, both these books are not just entertaining, they are educational into the bargain. Not that there was much chance I'd ever be in a conversation about football, but I'd certainly be careful about taking any bets between the teams likely to make it to the Grand Final.
Joel Fitch used to be a con artist.
That is, until his scam paid off but his life went belly up. Now, two years later, at the ripe old age of 22, Joel has a mattress full of cash and no idea what comes next. The movies never tell you what to do after you’ve walked into the sunset.
Besides, Joel’s past is catching up with him. One of the victims from his con artist days has hunted him down. Far from exacting revenge, though, he wants Joel’s help. Danny Allen is a TV journalist on television’s trashiest current-affairs program and he’s looking for someone to give him the inside scoop on the latest scams. And he’s not taking no for an answer.
Once again, Joel finds himself in over his head as he enters the murky world of tabloid television. Blackmailed into helping Allen uncover and expose the country’s biggest swindlers, Joel is making more enemies than ever.