Not since The Sting paired Redford and Newman has there been a more perfect con artist story than Traveling Man. It’s got everything: high-stakes swindles, smooth-talking operators, clueless marks, corrupt county officials, plenty of sex — The Sting didn’t have that, unfortunately — and a mobster ready to make everyone go away if need be.
Who could ask for more in the plot of a first-rate thriller? Oh, I forgot to mention the doublecrosses — plenty of those are on tap, too, in this well-written debut novel by Michael P. King.
Tom and Patty Brown partner up with fellow con artist Buddy Ray to construct a land development deal that should net them big bucks, even after giving the current landowners, kindly old Mr. and Mrs. Yost, their share, which, according to the original deal, is half the proceeds from sale of the lakefront property to a big developer.
Problem is, the U.S. Air Force, which leased the land a decade earlier, supposedly left it contaminated, thus making it unsalable without a blue ribbon rating from the county. How do the Browns make that happen? Old story. County official videotaped with his pants down. He’s bought and paid for, and the 40 core samples drilled on the land suddenly are Grade A.
Are you with me so far?
Things are proceeding nicely. Local down-on-her-luck real estate agent Marcie Tolliver is roped in to give the deal legitimacy, but she succumbs to Buddy Ray’s charms — she’s married, by the way — and suddenly a commission prospect becomes an ultimatum to play along.
Wait. There’s more. Patty, not content with her share of the prospective pie, sets up the first of several doublecrosses with Buddy, who is thinking he’s got it pretty sweet, sampling the favors of two lovely ladies and turning a drug deal on the side. Only problem is, he failed to check to see who was behind the adjoining motel room door when the money was dragged out of the duffel bag.
OK. If I tell you much more, I’ll have to kill you, as the old saying goes. But, really, I haven’t given everything away. What I’ve described just takes up the first 23 percent of this fast-moving tale. Trust me, there’s plenty more and it’s not all G-rated highjinks.
To find out the rest of the story — as Paul Harvey used to say — you’re going to have to download the ebook and find out just how twisted a plot can get.
You’ll get more than your money’s worth and find out if these cool, calculating characters get their comeuppance. Stay tuned!