The Upper Hand by Johnny Shaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When their mother dies and leaves everything to a televangelist, Axel, Kurt, and Gretchen Ucker are left out in the cold. A long lost aunt, Mother Ucker, shows up and introduces them to their long dead father's family, a family of con artists and thieves. The Uckers soon set their sights on Reverend Floom, the man their mother left everything to...
Even though I'm getting to the point where I refuse almost every ARC, I got this from Netgalley after Johnny Shaw hit me up. Totally worth it.
The Upper Hand is a hilarious tale about what it means to be a family, even if that family is entirely criminals. When the story begins, the Ucker kids aren't really talking to each other. Kurt still lives at home and wants to be a rock star. Axel just broke up with his girlfriend and lives in a house he can't afford, one that she talked him into buying. Gretchen is a burglar specializing in rare comics. When their mother dies, they are forced together out of necessity.
There's a lot going on in this. The dialogue is trademark Johnny Shaw: hilarious, Joe Lansdale by way of southern California. Much like Lansdale, I would have highlighted half of the book if I was keeping track of all the funny lines.
I really liked how the Uckers were brought into the fold and taught the family business by Mother Ucker and Fritzy, although we all knew how things would eventually go down. The Uckers run a few cons, both as a group and individually, crime bringing them together and eventually break them apart. And together again. It's like The Sting, only hilarious.
While I didn't like it as much as the Jimmy Veeder fiascos, The Upper Hand was hilarious and at least as good as Big Maria. Four out of five stars.
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