No matter how much you think you have it figured out, you don’t. There’s always something waiting in the shadows to bite you in the arse. – Alan Slater
No good deed ever goes unpunished, or so goes the sardonic saying. It’s one Manchester-based double glazing salesman Alan Slater would have done well to keep in mind before agreeing to help his so-called friend, Les Beale, out of a jam.
Of course, considering the jam in question involved helping Beale cover up a particularly nasty crime perhaps Slater should have seen the world of hurt he ends up in coming. Thankfully for readers of Ray Banks’ Dead Money, he did not.
Given that Slater is already having enough difficulty juggling his unsatisfied wife, impatient mistress, and declining career, the last thing he needs is to be burdened with someone else’s problems as well. Yet, somehow, he always seems to find himself out with co-worker Beale, a hard drinking, hard gambling bigot with a hair-trigger temper. Problems are Beale’s business, and business is good.
That is until he ends up on the wrong end of a rigged high stakes poker game. Unfortunately he doesn’t realize until he’s in too deep what’s going on, leaving him five figures in debt to the sort of people you don’t cross… or skip out on. Incensed, Beale confronts the person responsible for setting up the game, and that’s when things go from bad to worse.
Beale’s temper predictably gets the better of him, with the end result being a very messy situation he needs help cleaning up. Cue Slater, who against his better judgment responds to Beale’s call for help. If you think getting rid of a dead body is difficult, imagine the complications with one that turns out to be “not quite dead.” One thing leads to another, and before Slater knows it his bad decisions have snowballed out of control leaving his life one small step away from turning him into another Les Beale.
As has come to be expected from author Ray Banks, the prose in Dead Money has been pared down to the barest of bones. There’s not a beat missed or a word wasted in this beautifully bleak, absolutely pitch-black humorous look at a man in a deadly downward spiral. The characterizations are brutally real, depicting a very human reaction to the aftermath of an outburst of intense violence. There are no cool heads and master plans. Quite the contrary, the decisions are questionable, the consequences not entirely able to be anticipated, and the resolution less than tidy. In other words, it’s completely believable and utterly devastating.
Slater and Beale may have gambled wrong, but you’ll definitely come out a winner with Dead Money.