This early DW novel is quintessential Westlake: quirky, funny, beautifully plotted and too clever for words. Chester "Chet" Conway is a 29 year-old New York cabbie who lives with his father. His longshot bet on a nag in a Florida race has yielded what for Chet is a major payday: $930 (in 1969 dollars, of course). When he goes to his bookie for the cash he finds that said bookie has been aerated by (we will eventually learn) a .45 automatic. When the bookie's sister (a Vegas blackjack dealer) turns up and links arms with Chet we are off to the races. Two mobsters and their crews are after Chet and Abbie but C and A reason that if they can discover the bookie's killer they can call off the heat on themselves.
What follows is 250 pp. of assorted mayhem, with chases in cars, on a train and on foot. The tone of the book reassures us that Chet and Abbie will ultimately survive, solve the crime and perhaps even end up together. In short, the tone is light, the action predictably B-movie-ish and the overall experience a charming bit of escape, escape into the arms of a master genre writer.
In addition to the comedy, SOMEBODY OWES ME MONEY presents us with a bona fide mystery. DW paints himself into a corner and then escapes like Mandrake the Magician. From the beginning we feel that none of the likely suspects are legit suspects and at the end when the perp is revealed there is a general feeling of surprise, until, of course, DW shows us all of the clues that have been there before us from the get-go. The guy really has chops, but we all already knew that and it's great fun to rediscover that in reading early work.
Thanks again to Hard Case Crime for bringing this gem back to us.
- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd (2 November 1970)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0340126329
- ISBN-13: 978-0340126325
- Boxed-product Weight: 789 g
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