This was a silly, but ultimately entertaining, book by the author of the all around excellent Gun Monkeys.
File this one under G for “Guilty Pleasures.” Victor Gischler’s first book, Gun Monkeys, was nominated for the Edgar Award for outstanding mystery writing and it’s really a fantastic book. I’ve read one other book by Gischler, Pistol Poets, and, while it was enjoyable, it didn’t quite live up to the potential of his first book. The same could be said for Shotgun Opera.
On some levels, Shotgun Opera reads like Smoking Aces, The Book. The guy with a contract on his head is really just a McGuffin to set up a series of confrontations between various colorful contract killers. (Though, it has to be said that Jeremy Piven’s performance in Smoking Aces was ultimately the one redeeming factor of an otherwise disappointing movie. Not bad for a McGuffin.)
In the case of Shotgun Opera, it’s Andrew Foley who tips off the shit storm when he sees something he shouldn’t see while doing a favor for some mafia friends. Andrew’s friends are quickly dispatched and Andrew, a music major who’s never touched a gun in his life, should, by all rights, be an easy final detail to clean up if not for one small thing. Andrew Foley’s got an uncle and that uncle was himself a contract killer until he lost his nerve and retired to Oklahoma to make wine.
The stage thus set, Gischler keeps the action humming right along straight through to the climax. This is not high art. The characters, while colorful, are cartoon characters and the story stretches the bounds of credibility at times. That said, I don’t know many people who pick up a book called Shotgun Opera expecting high art. In the end, Shotgun Opera is a fun and exciting bit of reading, well suited to reading on the beach or an airplane.