Written by Ed Lynskey — Ask the Dice feels like a classic hardboiled crime novel. The dialogue, the narration and the characters are all throwbacks to the hallmarks of the genre. However, the story takes unique turns and creates characters with unique quirks, personalities and motivations that take the story in different directions than one would expect.
The story begins with the soon to be ex-hitman Tommy Mack Zane checking in on the niece of his boss, Mr Ogg. Ogg is a local crime boss, and Tommy is his closer. Tommy finds Gwen, the niece, dead. She’s been killed by an assassin who’s used Tommy’s MO. It doesn’t take long for Tommy Mack to know it’s gone sideways and his hunt for the truth – and mission to escape – begins.
He doesn’t go it alone. He pulls in what friends remain after an isolated life. The colourful characters of his past and present are entertaining on their own, and help to bring out more of the truth about Tommy Mack. His past is made present with their help and he works to understand who is behind the set-up, how to get revenge, and how to avoid getting killed in the process.
Along the way, we learn more about Tommy Mack; his love of music and poetry; his deviances from jobs in the past; and secrets he carries. We also, slowly, learn the truth of his past such as how his parents died, how he was adopted, and about his introduction to the life of crime that has defined him for so long. The book becomes as much a rebirth of Tommy Mack as it is a tale of his escape from the frame job.
Ask the Dice will appeal to both fans of classic hardboiled crime as well as those fond of the type of noir to which Ed Lynskey’s previous works belong. The dialog and narration are stylised and full of idioms and slang, but the messages are clear and the characters more universal than it first seems. This is an entertaining read, with enough feeling to draw you into Tommy Mack’s life and root for his success.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars