Ghostman

Ghostman

4.2 45
by Roger Hobbs
     
 

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Stunningly dark, hugely intelligent and thoroughly addictive, Ghostman announces the arrival of an exciting and highly distinctive novelist.

When a casino robbery in Atlantic City goes horribly awry, the man who orchestrated it is obliged to call in a favor from someone who’s occasionally called Jack. While it’s doubtful that anyone

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Overview

Stunningly dark, hugely intelligent and thoroughly addictive, Ghostman announces the arrival of an exciting and highly distinctive novelist.

When a casino robbery in Atlantic City goes horribly awry, the man who orchestrated it is obliged to call in a favor from someone who’s occasionally called Jack. While it’s doubtful that anyone knows his actual name or anything at all about his true identity, or even if he’s still alive, he’s in his mid-thirties and lives completely off the grid, a criminal’s criminal who does entirely as he pleases and is almost impossible to get in touch with. But within hours a private jet is flying this exceptionally experienced fixer and cleaner-upper from Seattle to New Jersey and right into a spectacular mess: one heister dead in the parking lot, another winged but on the run, the shooter a complete mystery, the $1.2 million in freshly printed bills god knows where and the FBI already waiting for Jack at the airport, to be joined shortly by other extremely interested and elusive parties. He has only forty-eight hours until the twice-stolen cash literally explodes, taking with it the wider, byzantine ambitions behind the theft. To contend with all this will require every gram of his skill, ingenuity and self-protective instincts, especially when offense and defense soon become meaningless terms. And as he maneuvers these exceedingly slippery slopes, he relives the botched bank robbery in Kuala Lumpur five years earlier that has now landed him this unwanted new assignment.

From its riveting opening pages, Ghostman effortlessly pulls the reader into Jack’s refined and peculiar world—and the sophisticated shadowboxing grows ever more intense as he moves, hour by hour, toward a  constantly reimprovised solution. With a quicksilver plot, gripping prose and masterly expertise, Roger Hobbs has given us a novel that will immediately place him in the company of our most esteemed crime writers. 

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Fast, hard and knowing: this is an amazing debut full of intrigue, tradecraft and suspense.  Read it immediately!” —Lee Child

“A slam-bang, pedal-to-the-metal crime story that fires on all cylinders and then some!  Ghostman is a gritty, lean, mean adrenaline machine.  Mostly, though, it was just plain fun to read.  I absolutely loved this book and cannot recommend it highly enough.” —Christopher Reich

“Smoking-fast…. Hobbs seizes our attention and holds it tight through his sheer, masterly use of details, and the authoritative, hard-boiled voice he has fashioned for Jack, a “ghostman” [with] an encyclopedic knowledge of criminal tradecraft.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Hobbs, a first-time novelist who's barely out of college but already writing with the poise of an old pro, has put a great deal of wit and ingenuity into Jack's sophisticated professional skills. . . . But Jack is no common trickster, and his daring criminal exploits are grounded in detailed, well-researched knowledge of all kinds of practical matters, from picking locks to faking the Kazakhstan Crown Diamond. . .Although Hobbs is an assured stylist who favors clean, precise prose, he handles violence with a lyric touch.  In a narrative stuffed with gruesome murders, the most graphic death is executed in a gracefully choreographed scene that's remarkably poignant.” —Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

“A stunningly accomplished debut [with] narrative speed and structure, as well as [an] encyclopedic knowledge of subjects ranging from the Federal Reserve's security measures to gunrunning in Malaysia. . . . Hobbs has the talent to fuel best-sellers and summer blockbusters for years to come.” —Doug Childers, The Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Stylishly gritty and fast-paced.” —Abbe Wright, O Magazine

“A first novel comes along every few years that clearly separates itself from the field, like Secretariat winning the 1973 Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths. This year’s Secretariat is going to be Ghostman, a propulsive thriller that combines incredible detail and nonstoppable narrative drive….The suspense builds inexorably, heightened by the supportive detail with which Hobbs undergirds the action…. Comparisons to Lee Child are inevitable here, and surely Hobbs possesses a Child-like ability for first unleashing and then shrewdly directing a tornado of a plot, but he also evokes Elmore Leonard in the subtle interplay of his characters. A triumph on every level.” —Bill Ott, Booklist

"Terrific: lightning fast, absolutely compelling and smart as all get-out....Ghostman is a real piece of work—without question, the strongest crime-fiction debut I've read in a long time." —Adam Woog, The Seattle Times

“Hobbs commands every detail. He delivers information with absolute authority. . . . Because of his precision, comparison to Lee Child and his superlative Jack Reacher novels are inevitable.  And what Child’s debut novel, Killing Floor, did for thrillers, Hobbs does for crime novels.” —Robert Anglen, The Arizona Republic

“Richly imagined and darkly fascinating.” —Gerald Bartell, San Francisco Chronicle

“A gripping adrenaline rush, a dirty bomb of a crime thriller with a deceptive plot that confounds and stimulates characters and readers alike.” —Sam Coggeshall, Portland Monthly

“Hobbs's unique voice resonates, making this newcomer a strong contender in the world of crime fiction.  Like some of the best writers, Hobbs has created a character that evolves, becoming more complex as the plot rolls to an open-ended conclusion.  Jack, like most ghosts, will always have unfinished business.” —Sara Polomy, The Wilkes-Barre Sunday Dispatch

“This watertight debut [is] at once slick and gritty…  Straight out of the gate, Hobbs has mastered the essentials of a contemporary thriller: a noirlike tone, no-nonsense prose and a hero with just enough personality to ensure he doesn't come off as an amoral death machine [as well as] heart-stopping scenes that illustrate how small mistakes can turn catastrophic.”  —Kirkus, starred review

Ghostman is not just an impressive debut, it's an impressive book. It's one to buckle yourself in for because the ride is fast, thrilling and constantly veering all over the road with a very exciting new talent at the wheel.” —Simon Toyne, author of Sanctus and The Key

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
Mr. Hobbs…seizes our attention and holds it tight, not so much through his plotting or his characters but through his sheer, masterly use of details, and the authoritative, hard-boiled voice he has fashioned for Jack…This is the debut of a gifted crime writer who will only get better with his next endeavors.
The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
Hobbs, a first-time novelist…already writing with the poise of an old pro, has put a great deal of wit and ingenuity into Jack's sophisticated professional skills…Although Hobbs is an assured stylist who favors clean, precise prose, he handles violence with a lyric touch.
Publishers Weekly
Hobbs’s strong debut bypasses a potentially over-familiar premise, a lone-wolf crook trying to outwit the underworld’s higher powers through sheer verve. Five years after a failed heist in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the protagonist, identified only by the alias “Jack Delton,” is leading an anonymous existence, but not enough of one to prevent his former boss, the Moriarty-like Marcus Hayes, from summoning him at a moment’s notice. Marcus’s latest heist, of an armored car delivering .2 million to an Atlantic City casino, has gone badly, bloodily wrong, with one henchman dead and the other in hiding with the loot. Jack must find the survivor in the next 48 hours before an ink bomb hidden in the cash goes off, while also dealing with FBI agent Rebecca Blacker and local kingpin Harrihar “the Wolf” Turner. Though occasionally overloaded with information about criminal procedure, Hobbs’s supremely confident storytelling should leave readers eagerly anticipating his antihero’s future felonies. 150,000 first printing; 5-city author tour. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber. (Feb.)
Library Journal
In the criminal underworld, there are many specialists needed when pulling a heist. Perhaps the most important is the ghostman, the person responsible for helping perpetrators disappear when the task is done. Unfortunately for the protagonist of this debut thriller, sometimes it’s impossible to disappear completely. Several years removed from botching a job in Kuala Lumpur, “Jack” (as he sometimes allows himself to be called) finds himself pressed into service cleaning up a casino robbery in Atlantic City. In less than 48 hours, he has to make the robbery vanish while staying one step ahead of the FBI and a rival crime boss.

Verdict The novel is frenetic yet methodical, a police procedural told from the wrong side of the law. With its unpredictable plot and an antihero readers will take a perverse joy in cheering for, this book will attract fans of Lee Child, George Pelecanos, or classic hard-boiled fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 8/9/12.]—Peter Petruski, Cumberland Cty. Lib. Syst., Carlisle, PA

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
An ice-in-his-veins fixer trawls Atlantic City for a missing bundle of cash in this watertight debut thriller. Jack Delton, the hero of this novel--and, presumably, more to come--is a "ghostman," an expert at disappearing and helping others disappear. He's a free agent with a full armory of skills that help him kill a man, cross borders, take on entirely new personalities and be smugly unimpressed with criminal overlords. But his botch of a big-money bank heist in Kuala Lumpur five years ago means he owes a favor to one of those honchos, Marcus, who's looking for a bag of cash that disappeared with a gunman when a casino robbery went sour. The clock's ticking: The bundle is a "federal payload" containing a packet of indelible ink set to explode in 48 hours. Jack is a superb sleuth and an entertaining explainer of the variety of ways one can torment or kill somebody (a jar of nutmeg can be terrifyingly deadly, it turns out), and Hobbs ensures he's in a heap of trouble fast: Marcus is watching closely, and Jack is also in the cross hairs of an FBI agent and a rival criminal, the Wolf, who's guarded by Aryan Brotherhood thugs. Straight out of the gate, Hobbs has mastered the essentials of a contemporary thriller: a noirlike tone, no-nonsense prose and a hero with just enough personality to ensure he doesn't come off as an amoral death machine. Jack loves Ovid, hates heroin and cripples his pursuers--but not so badly that they won't have a chance to come back in a future installment. The federal payload deadline gives the plot its essential urgency, but Hobbs is even better in the Kuala Lumpur interludes--heart-stopping scenes that illustrate how small mistakes can turn catastrophic. A smart entry into the modern thriller pantheon, at once slick and gritty.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307950499
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/30/2013
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
188,407
Product dimensions:
7.90(w) x 5.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

1

Seattle, Washington

The shrill, high-­pitched chirp of an incoming e-­mail was like a bell ringing in my head. I woke with a start and immediately put a hand on my gun. I took gasping breaths as my eyes adjusted to the light coming off my security screens. I looked over to the windowsill where I’d set my watch. The sky was still as black as ink.

I took the gun out from under my pillow and put it on my nightstand. Breathe.

When I regained my composure I scanned the monitors. There was no one in the hallway or the elevator. Nobody in the stairs or the lobby. The only person awake was the night watchman, who looked too engrossed in a book to notice anything. My building was an old ten-­story, and I was on the eighth floor. It was a seasonal sort of place, so there were year-­round occupants in only about half the rooms and none of them ever got up early. Everyone was still asleep, or away for the summer.

My computer chirped again.

I’ve been an armed robber for close to twenty years. Paranoia comes with the territory, as well as the stack of fake passports and hundred-­dollar bills under the bottom drawer of my dresser. I started in this business in my teens. I did a few banks because I thought I’d like the thrill of it. I wasn’t the luckiest and I’m probably not the smartest, but I’ve never been caught, questioned or fingerprinted. I’m very good at what I do. I’ve survived because I’m extremely careful. I live alone, I sleep alone, I eat alone. I trust no one.

There are maybe thirty people on earth who know I exist, and I am not sure if all of them believe I’m still alive. I am a very private person out of necessity. I don’t have a phone number and I don’t get letters. I don’t have a bank account and I don’t have debts. I pay for everything in cash, if possible, and when I can’t, I use a series of black Visa corporate credit cards, each attached to a different offshore corporation. Sending me an e-­mail is the only way to contact me, though it doesn’t guarantee I’ll respond. I change the address whenever I move to a different city. When I start getting messages from people I don’t know, or if the messages stop bearing important information, I microwave the hard drive, pack my things into a duffel and start all over.

My computer chirped again.

I ran my fingers over my face and picked up the laptop from the desk next to my bed. There was one new message in my in-­box. All of my e-­mails get redirected through several anonymous forwarding services before they reach me. The data goes through servers in Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Thailand before it gets chopped up and sent to accounts all over the world. Anybody tracing the IP wouldn’t know which was the real one. This e-­mail had arrived at my first offshore address in Reykjavik some two minutes ago, where the server had encrypted it with my private-­key 128-­bit cipher. From there it had been forwarded to another address registered under a different name. Then another address, then another. Oslo, Stockholm, Bangkok, Caracas, São Paulo. It was daisy-­chained down the line ten times with a copy in each in-­box. Cape Town, London, New York, L.A., Tokyo. Now it was undetectable, untraceable, private and anonymous. The information had circled the world almost twice before it got to me. It was in all these in-­boxes, but my cipher key could unlock only one. I entered my pass code and waited for the message to decrypt. I could hear the hard drive doing a spin-­up and the CPU beginning to work. Five in the morning.

Outside the sky was empty, except for a few lights on in the skyscrapers, which looked like foggy constellations. I’ve never liked July. Where I’m from the whole summer is intolerably hot. The security monitors had browned out for a few seconds the night before, and I had to spend two hours checking them. I opened a window and put my fan next to it. I could smell the shipping yard outside—­old cargo, garbage and salt water. Across the train tracks the bay stretched out like a giant oil slick. That early in the morning, only a half dozen or so headlights cut through the darkness. The fishing boats cast rigger beams over the nets, and the early ferries were setting off from the harbor. The fog rolled in from Bainbridge Island and through the city, where the rain stopped and the cargo express cast a shadow from the track going east. I took my watch off the windowsill and put it on. I wear a Patek Philippe. It doesn’t look like much, but it will tell the correct time until long after everyone I’ve ever known is dead and buried, the trains stop running and the bay erodes into the ocean.

My encryption program made a noise. Done.

I clicked on the message.

The sender’s address had been obscured by all the redirects, but I knew instantly who it was from. Of the possibly thirty people who know how to contact me, only two knew the name in the subject line, and only one I knew for sure was alive.

Jack Delton.

My name isn’t really Jack. My name isn’t John, George, Robert, Michael or Steven, either. It isn’t any of the names that appear on my driver’s licenses, and it isn’t on my passports or credit cards. My real name isn’t anywhere, except maybe on a college diploma and a couple of school records in my safety-­deposit box. Jack Delton was just an alias, and it was long since retired. I’d used it for a job five years ago and never again since. The words blinked on the screen with a little yellow tag next to them to show that the message was urgent.

I clicked it.

The e-­mail was short. It read: Please call immediately.

Then there was a phone number with a local area code.

I stared at it for a moment. Normally, when I got a message like this, I wouldn’t even consider dialing the number. The area code was the same as mine. I thought about this for a second and came up with two conclusions. Either the sender had been extraordinarily lucky or he knew where I was. Considering the sender, it was probably the latter. There were a few ways he could’ve done it, sure, but none of them would’ve been easy or cheap. Just the possibility that I’d been found should have been enough to send me running. I have a policy never to call numbers I don’t know. Phones are dangerous. It is hard to track an encrypted e-­mail through a series of anonymous servers. Tracking someone by their cell phone is easy, however. Even regular police can trace a phone, and regular police don’t deal with guys like me. Guys like me get the full treatment. FBI, Interpol, Secret Service. They have rooms full of officers for that sort of thing.

I looked at the blinking name long and hard. Jack.

If the e-­mail were from anyone else, I would’ve deleted it by now. If the e-­mail were from anyone else, I’d be closing the account and deleting all my messages. If the e-­mail were from anyone else, I’d be frying the computers, packing my duffel and buying a ticket for the next flight to Russia. I’d be gone in twenty minutes.

But it wasn’t from anyone else.

Only two people in the world knew that name.

I stood up and went to the dresser by my window. I pushed aside a pile of money and a yellow legal pad full of notes. When I’m not on a job, I translate the classics. I pulled a white shirt out of the drawer, a gray two-­piece suit from the closet and a leather shoulder holster from my dresser. I fished a little chrome revolver from the box on top: a Detective Special with the trigger guard and hammer spur filed off. I filled it with a handful of .38 hollow points. When I was dressed and ready, I took out an old prepaid international phone, powered it up and punched in the numbers.

The phone didn’t even ring. It just went right to connection.

“It’s me,” I said.

“You’re a hard man to find, Jack.”

“What do you want?”

“I want you to come to my clubhouse,” Marcus said. “Before you ask, you still owe me.”

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Fast, hard and knowing: this is an amazing debut full of intrigue, tradecraft and suspense.  Read it immediately!” —Lee Child

“A slam-bang, pedal-to-the-metal crime story that fires on all cylinders and then some!  Ghostman is a gritty, lean, mean adrenaline machine.  Mostly, though, it was just plain fun to read.  I absolutely loved this book and cannot recommend it highly enough.” —Christopher Reich

“A first novel comes along every few years that clearly separates itself from the field, like Secretariat winning the 1973 Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths. This year’s Secretariat is going to be Ghostman, a propulsive thriller that combines incredible detail and nonstoppable narrative drive….The suspense builds inexorably, heightened by the supportive detail with which Hobbs undergirds the action…. Comparisons to Lee Child are inevitable here, and surely Hobbs possesses a Child-like ability for first unleashing and then shrewdly directing a tornado of a plot, but he also evokes Elmore Leonard in the subtle interplay of his characters. A triumph on every level.” —Bill Ott, Booklist

“This watertight debut [is] at once slick and gritty…  Straight out of the gate, Hobbs has mastered the essentials of a contemporary thriller: a noirlike tone, no-nonsense prose and a hero with just enough personality to ensure he doesn't come off as an amoral death machine [as well as] heart-stopping scenes that illustrate how small mistakes can turn catastrophic.”  —Kirkus, starred review

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Meet the Author

Roger Hobbs lives in Portland, Oregon, after graduating in 2011 from Reed College. Ghostman will be published in fourteen countries around the world.

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Ghostman 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
Twink More than 1 year ago
Learn from my mistakes. It was almost bedtime, but I thought I would sample a few chapters of Ghostman by Roger Hobbs before calling it a night. Yeah, good plan - didn't work. And I was very bleary eyed at work the next morning. Atlantic City. The perfect heist, perfectly planned- treasury bills on their way to a casino. But.....the best laid schemes of mice and men.... When things go horribly wrong, Marcus, the orchestrator (jugmarker) of the heist gets in touch with 'Jack' (aren't all the best anti-heroes named Jack?!) in hopes of salvaging part of his plan. Jack owes Marcus for something that happened on another job. Since that job Jack has disappeared - like a ghost. "My name isn't really Jack. My name isn't John, George, Robert, Michael or Steven, either. It isn't any of the names that appear on my drivers licenses and it isn't on my passports or credit cards. My real name isn't anywhere, except maybe on a college diploma and a couple of school records in my safety-deposit box. Jack Delton was just an alias, and it was long since retired. I'd used it for a job five years ago and never again since......Only two people in the world knew that name." Jack is caught between warring criminals, his own proclivity for living on the edge and the past. We slowly learn what happened in the botched robbery five years ago and how Jack came to be the Ghostman. Hobbs had me hooked from page one. The opening scenes are action filled, addictive and set the pace for the rest of the book. The story never falters or stalls and had me enthralled until I (reluctantly) turned the last page. The plot twists and turns in unexpected directions, taking the reader on a thrill packed ride. Hobbs has obviously done a great deal of research into the criminal underworld of robberies, casinos, security and more. (Who knew you could kill someone with nutmeg?) The details included are fascinating and really add depth to the story. This is not a glossed over paint by the numbers plot. In fact, I stopped at one point to go online and read about the author. I really could not believe this was a debut novel. "Roger Hobbs graduated from Reed College in Portland, Oregon in 2011, where he majored in English. His first book, GHOSTMAN, was written during the summer between his junior and senior years at Reed. He spent the school year rewriting it and editing. The manuscript was sent off on the day he graduated¿. A few weeks later it caused an uproar at the 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair, and has since sold in more than fifteen countries around the world." Who is going to love this book? Well, in my opinion, everyone. But if you're a fan of Reacher and the 'Oceans' heist movies, then this is one for you. I absolutely loved it - Five stars all the way. Roger Hobbs: "My protagonist may be on the other side of the law from Lee's (Childs) heroic Jack Reacher, but he's just as smart, rough and principled. If I can get anyone to stay up all night reading, then I've done my job." Job done, Roger - in spades. More please.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of Jack Reacher and the character in this book reminds me of Jack. There is a lot of the same type of analysis done by each character. This Jack may be a little less "heroic" by is nevertheless quite engaging and the action and suspense are very similiar to the way Lee Childs writes.Please give us more of these stories Roger!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love, love, love this book. The story keeps you enthralled from page one up until the very end. I can hardly wait for more from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very much along the lines of the Parker stories of Richard Stark, but far more (and unnecessarily) gruesome. Hobbs, however, lacks Stark's (Westlake's, actually) skill in quickly and incisively defining character. Plot rolls along, but the lack of character weakens it.
gnocci More than 1 year ago
Decent, but hype left me expecting more. Rolling Stone said Hobbs did extensive research, interviewing real criminals to make the book as accurate as possible. I can't speak to the accuracy of the criminal lingo and lifestyle, but every few chapters there was the clunk of inaccurate science or engineering. I'll read his next book, but I hope the publisher will fact-check it better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I mean the storyline is not plausible. Do you remember the tv show Mission Impossible? It was doing the same thing back then. No sequels please.
booksandwine More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I've read this year! Could not put down this page turining novel. It is gritty, adrenaline elevating, pulse pounding action story of a ghostman sent in to clean up an Atlantic City heist that has gone terrible wrong. There are scenes written with such intensity that your heart will be racing. The characters are intriguing and the story is so engrossing. I can't wait for the next book from this dedut author.
Randolph-J_Stevens More than 1 year ago
Graduates from Reed College (Portland) the same day his novel is published. Truly a mind like few others. And it delivers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Roger Hobbs has donee a great job! Keeps you guessing right up to the end. Can't wait to read his next one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good reading. Action moved at good pace.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Any fan of noir will see shades of some of the best noir novelists of all time. If this is his first effort I can't wait until he matures a bit. For those giving this book less than 5 stars they dont understand the genre. It is about bad people doing bad things to other bad people and getting away with it. Think the Parker novels from Westlake. This guy gets it and will only get better
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sad criminal as a "hero".
jbcope01 More than 1 year ago
Good read, enjoyed it, but the obvious setup for a series took away from the story at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a good one! Highly recommended!
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Terrific thriller. Page turner. Great insights into the world of heists.
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