Shaker by Scott Frank

Not overwhelmed here – there’s a good story and Frank has spent plenty of time on the characters and plot twists but it sometimes seems that the backstories on the major characters slow the main story down quite a lot – a tad too much maybe.  But it all comes together because by the time the story winds up you really have the scoop on everyone and almost don’t know who to root for.


by Scott Frank
2015 / 353 pages
read by Dion Graham – 10h 29m
rating:  B+  / crime


The story opens during a major earthquake with serious aftershocks  hitting the Los Angeles area.  Roy Cooper, a hitman for some operation,  has just flown in from New York to take care of a piece of business – kill a man who is interfering in some way with his employer’s doings.  He gets there,  does the job in a very professional manner and then, due in part to the earthquake,  can’t find the car on his way out of the apartment complex.   Instead he runs into a little group of very young gangster types.  These are the 14-year olds – the ones who are out to kill for the thrill.    And the jogger Roy saw just moments before is now down on the ground with a gun to his head.  The gangsters shoot the jogger and after Roy slaps the Science, the leader.  So Science escapes but it’s with Roy’s special gun.

As it turns out the jogger victim is a highly respected special assistant to the mayor and the gun snatched by Science is an antique.  Roy the hitman lands in the hospital and he’s seen as the hero by a media frenzy which includes video extensive footage.   This doesn’t look good to Roy’s employers back in Brooklyn and it seems that although his mother didn’t want him,  now everybody does.

There are lots of characters,  but most of them are bit players to the majors.    Detective Kelly McGuire,  a drunk and outspoken critic of the department,  is taken off her disciplinary desk duty to chase down McGuire and the gangsters.  Half Latina she knows the neighborhoods and the bigger players.  And there’s Albert Burdin, the Canadian boss,  and Science the up-and-coming hit man.   Roy has to get some scores settled and get out of LA.

Interspersed with the story of Roy and his pursuers is the tale of Roy’s formative years,  his little family,  his incarceration at the age of 11,  the group at the Farm – he learns a lot over his lifetime.

But Frank is also trying to cover the entrapment of the ghetto – some of the younger kids show promise but there’s no way to make anything of it and so a cycle continues to breed poverty and guns.

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