The Gravity of Mammon by Dan O’Shea

The Gravity of Mammon by Dan O'SheaHe was pushing 50, and, after almost 20 years schlepping around the Sahel, 50 was pushing back. It was time for an exit strategy. – Nick Hardin

With 8 years in the Marines as a sniper, including two tours in Gulf War I, and 10 years with the French Foreign Legion under his belt, Nick Hardin is a genuine badass. Unfortunately, even badasses have a sell-by date, and given all the mileage he’s racked up in conflict zones Hardin is fast approaching his.

Working as a “fixer” in Darfur – someone who escorts foreign journalists into conflict areas, making sure they and their gear get in and out safely – Hardin somehow finds himself tasked with ensuring the safety of a Hollywood feel good charity event, Dollars for Darfur. And he almost pulls it off.

Until, that is, hotshot actor Shamus Fenn feels the need to try and out badass Hardin, a move that earns Fenn a broken nose and a video clip of his humiliation endlessly playing on the internet and late night talk shows. Exercising what little clout he has left, Fenn gets Hardin blackballed by the networks, effectively drying up Hardin’s source of income. Time for that exit strategy.

Having worked in the Sahel for nearly two decades, Hardin is well aware of the movement of West African conflict diamonds in the region. Using some inside information about when a courier drop is to occur, Hardin highjacks a shipment of diamonds worth 100 million, his plan being to unload them to a broker in Chicago for a fraction of their value and be set for life. Unfortunately for Hardin his exit strategy gets just a bit more complicated than he had planned. Those diamonds he stole? Yeah, well they belonged to Hezbollah, who were moving them for Al-Qaeda, and they want them back. So much so they send their number one assassin to retrieve their property. Badass or not, that’s a handful for Hardin to deal with. But wait, there’s more.

Remember that actor Shamus Fenn? He’s holding a grudge. And when he sees Hardin in Chicago, Fenn calls on a mafia friend to settle the score for him. Now Hardin has a Lebanese assassin and mafia thugs after him. Hardin’s not having a good day. So it really sucks when Hardin’s past rears its ugly head in the form of Chicago drug lord Hernandez, brother of a guy Hardin killed back in the day to prevent him from abducting and assaulting the sister of a friend. Add to that a sleazy, politically ambitious U.S. Attorney, a couple of too smart for their own good Chicago detectives, and a wealthy venture capitalist with ties to Iran and there are quite a few people seriously complicating Hardin’s retirement plan.

He’s not flapping in the wind all alone, however. That girl he saved all those years ago? She’s a DEA agent now, one who’s willing to set aside her job to help the man who saved her life. Hardin also enlists the aid of some friends from his days in the French Foreign Legion, and before you know it there’s an international thriller taking place in downtown Chicago.

To say that author Dan O’Shea has stuffed The Gravity of Mammon to the gills with plot points and action is an understatement. The story unfolds with the intensity of the show 24 on steroids, but with a tighter plot and more believable action. O’Shea’s ability to seamlessly shift gears from one character’s voice to another’s is nothing short of masterful. He never misses a beat, the tone and attitude of each player staying pitch perfect. Be it Hispanic drug lord Hernandez, Lebanese assissin al Din, French attaché Foucalt, Italian mafia boss Corsco, or world-weary Hardin himself, every character in The Gravity of Mammon, big or small, reeks of authenticity.

Beyond just gangsters, car chases, and shootouts, however, a large part of the verisimilitude of The Gravity of Mammon comes from the very complex international politics O’Shea was woven into the fabric of the story. He could have made this a simple heist gone wrong caper that took place entirely stateside, but has instead given the story a greater scope and impact by bringing world politics into play. The Gravity of Mammon is a thriller of the highest order, and you will be making a grave mistake if you don’t read this adrenaline-fueled adventure.

The Gravity of Mammon is available to read for free on Dan’s website, and Dan was even cool enough to record a brand spanking new version of the first chapter for your listening pleasure.

Dan O’Shea is a Chicago-area crime writer represented by Stacia Decker at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. His novel Unto Caesar is currently being circulated to all the usual suspects. His short fiction has appeared in Crimefactory, the Discount Noir anthology, and in an upcoming issue of Needle. His collection of short stories, Old School, is available from Snubnose Press. You can find out more about Dan at his blog, Going Ballistic.

Also be sure to check out Dan’s guest blog, “Throwing Shit into the Monkey House.”


  • Sabrina Ogden

    May 13, 2011 - 10:56 AM

    Totally cool! Excellent review… and can you guess what I’m listening to right this very minute?

    • Elizabeth A. White

      May 13, 2011 - 3:25 PM

      So, how many times have you listened to it? 😉

      Isn’t his English accent for Nigel great? “You forgot the bloody gin!”

      • Sabrina Ogden

        May 13, 2011 - 5:32 PM

        Well, as I was typing you a little message a minute ago Mr. O’Shea was talking in the background. His English accent is awesome. His voice is, is… I can’t find the right words. I really think I’m in love with his voice. Is that even possible?

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