Review - Sold, Blair Denholm
You have to admire any author who doesn't just create a profoundly unlikeable protagonist but then grants them full permission to be as ordinary a human being as they can possibly be. In SOLD, Blair Denholm's creation, Gary Braswell is the sort of bloke that you'd be forgiven for belting over the head with a shovel, after watching him dig his own grave any day.
Comic in styling, SOLD is set on the Gold Coast in the sweltering heat of summer, where Braswell takes the not-so-big step from used car salesman to real estate, at about the same time that his gambling debts are threatening to bury him. Because of his drinking, gambling and behaving like a prize dick, his wife's starting to get heartily sick of him into the bargain. (If there is a character in this novel that you dearly wish had been equipped with a shovel very early on, it's Braswell's wife Maddie.)
Steeped in black, dark humour, reader's reactions to Braswell, Maddie, and their shared fates are likely to affect their like or dislike of this novel immensely. There's not a lot of light, hope or love for Gary Braswell. He's a died in the wool self-centred, obnoxious bloke, who really deserves that aforementioned shovel about the head and shoulders. Maddie is either a saint to tolerate him for as long as she does, or an idiot - your choice. Because the humour is very dark, very black and very low key, there are passages when you might need to remind yourself that this is a comic novel because all too often Braswell is simply too realistically narcissistic.
All of this behaviour is woven into a plot involving sales commissions, selling activity, Russians, loan sharks, their minders, and a lot of rushing about trying to avoid the seemingly inevitable. Perhaps some trimming down of the repetition of Braswell behaving badly might be beneficial as it gets a bit "samey" in places.
The ending's another brave undertaking, clearly telegraphing a follow-up, leaving Braswell with another woman in toe (did I mention he's a revolting human being...). All in all SOLD is the sort of novel that will appeal to readers who don't want everything nice, neat and tidy, with the action driven by a self-centred pain in the rear, the humour dark, dry and pointed, the language particularly Australian, frequently gross (exploding birds and itchy rears) and very "adults only" in places, and the action fast and furious.
The Gold Coast swelters in record temperatures, and car salesman Gary Braswell’s feeling hot under the collar. His sales are at rock bottom, and he’s up to his neck in debt to loan shark Jocko Mackenzie. Gary’s sweating on a fat commission from a mysterious Russian couple. If the loan’s not repaid, there’s more than Gary’s kneecaps at stake – his long-suffering wife’s also in peril. But Jocko wants more than repayment and has sinister plans for the hapless salesman.
When Gary turns his skills to real estate sales, he’s soon embroiled in the murky world of money laundering. Things get even hotter when the federal police start sniffing around. With Jocko on his tail, Gary concocts a scam of unimaginable scale and audacity. Success means money – lots of it; failure – death. But hard-drinking, cocaine-snorting Gary is incapable of planning ahead. So, can he pull it off?
Hilarious and dark, SOLD is noir reading at its best – a whirlpool of sex, drugs, and real estate.