The Bottom Line: A top rate ripped-from-the-headlines psychological thriller that crackles with tension.
Two friends agree to split lottery ticket winnings if they hit it big. What could go wrong?
We’ve all seen this nightmare played out in the American legal system, but as novelist Kimberly Shursen demonstrates with the first entry in her Lottery trilogy, the end game could be far darker than most of us could even imagine.
In San Francisco, 33-year-old gambling addict Caleb O’Toole owes his loan shark $50,000. Hoping that a drink might help numb his fear, he heads to a local bar, where he runs into his buddy Jack Weber. With a face like JFK and a sizable trust fund, money is the last thing Jack needs. Still, he casually suggests that Caleb pick them up some mega-million lottery tickets, suggesting that they split the proceeds. “Can’t ever have enough women or money,” he quips.
It turns out to be Caleb’s lucky night. Not only does his lottery investment pay off to the tune of $736 million, but the divorcee also meets the woman of his dreams, a Chinese-American beauty named Ling Jameson. Just as things are getting good, Jack decides to stiff Caleb on the winnings.
What distinguishes Lottery from other crime novels is the masterful way that Shursen gradually – and artfully – escalates the sense of danger with each succeeding chapter. While the book unleashes a regular cadence of shocking twists from the get-go, the malevolence burning within the book’s primary protagonist builds like Ravel’s Bolero. About the time you start wondering whether you can trust Caleb’s version of reality, you’ll be well on your way to a page-turning binge read that crescendos at just the right time.