Book Review : Dan O'Shea - Greed (2014)
Thrillers are the most popular literary genre of people who do not like to read. Airports and resorts crowds who are just looking for a way to spend downtime, preferably away from Netflix. They feature lots of action, but little characterization or tension, so they’re easy to read and even easier to forget. Finding a memorable thriller is a challenge, though. Dan O’Shea’s novel Penance, a thriller/detective novel hybrid, had that effect on me. The sequel Greed couldn’t be any more different, but it’s just as nuanced, byzantine and unpredictable as its predecessor. That O’Shea guy is good.
Detective John Lynch isn’t exactly the protagonist of Greed. He’s not a support character either. It’s more complicated than that, he’s part of a greater cast of characters involved in a geopolitical shitstorm. The person responsible for starting it is a mercenary named Nick Hardin, who’s looking for a retirement plan. He’s bringing incognito 150 millions worth of diamonds with him in the streets of Chicago. When Hardin’s contact turns up inexplicably dead, shit starts going sideways and John Lynch is the only person in the world interested in cleaning up that mess.
So, Greed is part airport thriller (which I believe is quite assumed by Dan O’Shea) and part contemporary western. It’s anything but a typical novel. It has every aspect of an airport thriller: international terrorists, black ops governmental agencies, weapons of mass destruction, cold-blooded professional killers, etc. What makes it different is that all the players of this deadly global game are ending up in “the wrong sheriff”’s town, if you know what I mean. It’s like Zero Dark Thirty turned into Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest halfway through and I got a huge kick out of John Lynch keeping his cool against baddies well above his pay grade.
Given what Dan O’Shea was trying to pull here, I had somewhat of a difficult time keeping up with the intricacies of Greed. It has Russian novel-level number of characters and the dots aren’t always easy to immediately connect. No doubt it bears a concern for realism (geopolitics are always full of unnecessary and opportunistic, power-hungry people), but constant switching of point of views for plot’s sake leaves little room to understand why any characters are worth giving a shit about, except maybe for John Lynch. Even in a leaner, stripped down way, his romantic woes were tragic enough for me to understand why he so recklessly buried himself in work.
Greed doesn’t have much to do with its predecessor Penance. It almost feels like a different story where detective John Lynch was added later. While I enjoyed Penance slightly better, I can’t fault Greed for its ambition. The detective John Lynch novels are unfortunately not available anymore due to its publisher calling it quits, but it would be a shame for such a fun, old school, Hemingway-esque character to sail in the sunset with unfinished business. Get yourself Penance and Greed on the secondhand market, get the word out to your friend who read and even those who don’t. There’s a little something for everyone in there.