The Tommy of the title hangs on to life by a thread. He's overdone it in every way and now barely functions if there isn't a drink within close reach. His life's on the skids and his derelict body is fighting back in the form of the worst case of bowel disorder that fiction has ever seen.
Whether it's because it offers a tiny glimmer of hope or just because he's a habitual criminal, he takes on a big heist that requires him to put together a gang he's not sure he can trust to carry it out.
Following Tommy is fascinating. He's hard, raw and astute when it comes to his job, but when he's home, he's all too human - just a broken-down loser who craves only the love of his wife and his son.
The dialogue works really well, the planning of the heist builds the tension and the execution delivers the action at the perfect pitch.
Lowlife literature of a high order.
And he's the official blurb:
Tommy Shakes (US) is a career criminal, and not a very good one. He earned his name as a heroin addict. Now he’s just a drunk, drinking so much that he spends much of his time in bathrooms, exploding from one end or the other.
He’s in a marriage he wants to salvage. He convinces himself that his wife, Carla, will allow him to stay with her and their teenage son, Malik, if he can bring home enough money. She tells him that won’t do it, he needs to quit crime altogether, but Tommy gets a crack at a big heist and decides to pull the job.
The job is ripping off a popular restaurant that runs an illegal sports book in back. A lot of money gets paid out on football Sundays; the plan is to pull the robbery on Saturday night. The back room has armed guards but, according to Smallwood, Tommy’s contact on the job, there’s no gang protection.
Tommy recons the job and finds two problems: Smallwood’s plan will get them all killed or up on murder one, and one security guy works for a local gangster, Joey Lee. Tommy’s desperate for money and figures he can make his own plan. As to the gangster, there’s enough money that it’s worth the risk.
They pull the robbery but one gang member gets gun happy and it turns into a bloodbath, which includes killing Lee’s man. Now they’re wanted for murder, and the law is the least of their problems.