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The Gun Seller Paperback – October 1, 1998
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Hugh Laurie concocts an uproarious cocktail of comic zingers and over-the-top action in this "ripping spoof of the spy genre" (Vanity Fair) -- the irresistible tale of a former Scots Guard-turned-hired gun, a freelance soldier of fortune who also happens to be one heck of a nice guy.
Cold-blooded murder just isn't Thomas Lang's cup of tea. Offered a bundle to assassinate an American industrialist, he opts to warn the intended victim instead -- a good deed that soon takes a bad turn. Quicker than he can down a shot of his favorite whiskey, Lang is bashing heads with a Buddha statue, matching wits with evil billionaires, and putting his life (among other things) in the hands of a bevy of femmes fatales. Up against rogue CIA agents, wannabe terrorists, and an arms dealer looking to make a high-tech killing, Lang's out to save the leggy lady he has come to love...and prevent an international bloodbath to boot.
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I enjoy this book a lot and come back to reread it every few years. However, I've always been confused by the very ending of it, when Lang is in a car with some people. One of those people seems out of place at that time, and I always wondered how that person ended up in the car. I had always guessed that it was just courtesy to Lang, bringing in this person he is comfortable with. But on my most recent reread, I almost wondered whether the person actually is a business colleague of the other two, and had been acting as such throughout the book. If so, this is too subtly done for me (this was probably my 12th reread and it never occurred to me until now). Even knowing this, and looking at that person's interactions earlier in the book, I could not really tell if this was a member of some British organization, or just a plain citizen as written. This is so annoying to me that I almost took off a star! However, I kept it at 5, and will now go enjoy some I'm Sure I've Seen That Grouse Somewhere Before to calm down.
Reading the book causes me to wonder how many of Laurie's lines on House are improvised as his narrator/character in Gun Seller speaks in the same dark, ironic, wise-cracking tone as does Dr. House. Clearly Laurie is a talented man at what he does.
The Gun Seller is what it is: a fun little romp with an engaging plot. Laurie is not England's heir to Shakespeare, so the highbrow reading public is best advised to move along. Laurie uses his platform to lampoon anyone within reach, including the story's local constabulary and American international businessmen and/or spies.
The Gun Seller moves along at a nice clip and is amusing on every page. Other reviewers have mentioned the colloquial Brit-speak as a problem. Since I am reading on Kindle the dictionary function (which I have set to the OED as default) picks up most of these and offers a clear understanding for this American reader.
I find The Gun Seller to be fun reading after a day of reading self-important textbooks for grad school assignments. If you want humor woven into a fair plot narrated by a dry wit, this book absolutely works! If you prefer meaningful character development supported by subtle clues to motivation, and narration offering fifteen shades of blue to describe the sky I would suggest this isn't the prose you are seeking.
I'd love to see more stories with the main character, but sadly I think that's unlikely when the author is such a busy actor. Then again, now that House has ended, maybe he'll take a break from acting and write another book. Meanwhile, I think this could be made into a pretty good movie, and there's indications of this at the end of the book.
The first half of the book really wasn't too bad. Mr Laurie went a little over the top with the "Hard Boiled" style but not so thick that made it hard to follow. I mostly cared about the protagonist and the story moved along in a bit edgy but lighthearted way. Unfortunately the second half of the book bogged down with long, drawn out scenes that weren't believable and not lighthearted. The hard-boiled dialogue seemed a little out of place with the turn to seriousness that he introduced. The protagonist I thought I knew changed into an insensitive killer that made me wonder if I knew him at all.
I half thought to give up on the story but by then I was 75% through it so decided to plod on. The ending did tie up for the most part but I found myself more relieved to have finished rather than satisfied with the conclusion. In summary I can't recommend.
Thanks for reading the review.