In McCrary’s (Remo Went Rogue, 2013, etc.) latest crime novel, an out-of-work screenwriter decides to trail criminals documentary-style, with expectedly violent results.
Jasper Tripp’s first screenplay became a moderately successful film, but his second, more personal movie, which he financed himself, stunted his career. Now he’s a notorious failure and the subject of his former friend Wilson Gaines’ upcoming documentary, Don’t Get Tripped. But Jasper has an epiphany: he’ll make a film about a real-life crew of bank robbers while embedded in the action himself. With help from his entertainment-attorney brother, Alex, and funding from an Australian financier, Jasper heads to New York City to get in touch with some lawbreakers. He ultimately finds himself in the middle of a gang war involving a big score called “The Massive,” and he winds up the abductee of a man named Choke and his cronies, Ruby, Boone, and Harry. Jasper thankfully has enough money stashed away to convince the criminals to keep him breathing so he can record their illicit deeds. Choke and the rest become willing participants and even use their own cameras to help film everything from murder to sex, often involving a generally disinclined Jasper. Not everyone makes it out of the situation alive, due in large part to a rival gang, and Jasper can only hope he gets sufficient footage without dying in the process. This novel offers a curious blend of humor and brutality. Jasper is unquestionably in peril and understandably terrified, but his first-person narrative has an often amusing frankness. For example, after he witnesses Ruby callously kill a man, he’s still able to compartmentalize the event: “I’ll worry about the therapy later.” He’s not the most likable protagonist, but he still garners readers’ sympathy by keeping his wits about him and making the most of an increasingly brutal situation. He faces countless hurdles, including a worry that, while drugged, he’ll inadvertently reveal the location of his hidden cash, or that a sexual dalliance will incite one of the criminals to violence. McCrary’s prose practically bounces off the page (“He breathes in deeply, blinking only as necessary. Time seems to crawl. Seconds take minutes”), with short chapters, including one that consists of a single obscenity, that turn the story into a sprint to the end.
An energetic tale that will make readers root for its disreputable characters.