Thursday, 18 September 2014



Treasure Coast is the wild new thriller from Tom Kakonis, the acclaimed author of Criss Cross and Michigan Roll.

A compulsive gambler goes to his sister's funeral on Florida's Treasure Coast and gets saddled with her loser-son, who is deep in debt to a vicious loan shark who sends a pair of sociopathic thugs to collect on the loan. But things go horribly awry...and soon the gambler finds himself in the center of an outrageous kidnapping plot involving a conman selling mail-order tombstones, a psychic who channels the dead and the erotically super-charged wife of a wealthy businessman. As if that wasn't bad enough, a killer hurricane is looming...

It's "Get Shorty" meets "No Country for Old Men" on a sunny Florida coast teeming with conmen and killers, the vapid and the vain, and where violent death is just a heartbeat away.

"Kakonis is a sharp new gambler in the literary crap game -- he just takes the pot." The New York Times

"Aptly compared to Elmore Leonard, Kakonis builds exquisite tension...steamy with a high-rent, low-life atmosphere...and an unforgettable cast." Publishers Weekly

"Tom Kakonis is a master of the low-life novel. Nobody does it better." Ross Thomas

Tom Kakonis is one of my favourite authors of all time; a judgement I have arrived at on the strength of reading 4 of his books. Kakonis first came to my attention in the late 80’s with the superb Michigan Roll – a tale about a former college professor-cum-professional gambler-cum-ex jailbird.
After a fairly long absence from the publishing scene and now thanks to the dynamic duo of Lee Goldberg and Joel Goldman and their recently spawned love-child - Brash Books – he’s back.

Treasure Coast is fast, funny, black, violent, irreverent and politically incorrect……populated by a cast of predominantly misfits, losers and failures. In short my kind of book.

We cross paths with Jim Merriman, a failed gambler and reluctant uncle, assuming responsibility for his naïve and bewildered nephew, Leon who just happens to owe 45k. Jim and Leon are soon to meet Morris Biggs, Jr. - a racist and misogynistic, debt collecting ex-con and Hector, his Hispanic side-kick. Leon’s unlicensed lender has just enlisted his collection agents to come and collect.

We happen upon Bryce Bott an opportunistic chancer and grifter selling the recently bereaved a conduit to their dear departed, in tandem with his sick-note partner, Waneta. Bryce’s previous scams may not match the potential his current scheme offers, though Waneta does seem to be acting rather strangely.
Added to the mix is the sexy temptress, Billy Swett – the head-turning, third wife of the fabulously wealthy “Big Lonnie” Swett.

Billy keeps bumping into our central protagonist Jim, seemingly at every turn. Jim not immune to the charms of the lovely lady is surprised to meet her at Bott’s. Billy’s been contributing to Bott’s wallet in return for messages from the other side, regarding something troubling her from her past. Whereas Jim, slightly less believing in Bott’s spirit world connections is trying to recover some funds the witless Leon has palmed over, in the belief his recently deceased mother can offer him some guidance on how to escape the clutches of the neanderthal, Junior Biggs.    

When our grifter, debt collectors, uncle and nephew collide; Bott hatches a plan on the hoof to kidnap, Billy and relieve “Big Lonnie” of some of his fortune to everyone’s mutual advantage. Jim, stalling for time and with limited options reluctantly goes along with it, shrewd enough to understand that Biggs won’t be willing to settle for a share of the 5 million when he has to tools and inclination to eliminate his accomplices for a bigger share of the pie. Big Lonnie’s unwillingness to part with his cash in return for Billy without further enquiries introduces another dynamic to the mix – “Cheetah” McReedy an ex-cop turned investigator.       

With Cheetah closing in on the kidnap gang and Junior Biggs running light on patience, we reach a climax just as a hurricane strikes.   

Overall verdict – really enjoyable. Perhaps feelings of nostalgia cloud my judgement, as I scored it slightly lower than the much loved debut, Michigan Roll. It’s been one of the highlights of my year seeing Tom Kakonis back in print after all this time.

4 from 5

Many thanks to Lee at Brash for an ARC of this. Brash are in the process of republishing all of Tom’s previous books, including a couple previously published under the pseudonym of Adam Barrow. Several are available now, with more to come in February 2015. More details on their website.

There's a couple of blog posts by Tom on the Brash site - Creating Waverley and The Story Behind Treasure Coast.

Kings River Life Magazine have a review and interview with Tom here.

Can you tell I'm a fan?


  1. Col - It sounds like this does have a solid Florida setting and some terrific nasty characters. I'll be honest; I'm not sure this one's exactly up my street. Still, I'm very glad you enjoyed it as much as you did.

    1. Definitely full of nasty and slippery characters. More me than you for sure.

  2. I loved reading your enthusiasm for this author and for the book, even if the blurb's mention of No Country... is off-putting. I will put him on the list for a future try-out, but perhaps the one you mention that's even better?

    1. MICHIGAN ROL.......everything I love about crime fiction. In the interests of balance, there's a fantastic review of it on Goodreads. Patricia obviously didn't enjoy it. Her review just makes me want to pick it up and reread. Make your own mind up I reckon.

    2. Read the review, OMG, she really didn't like it did she? I shall proceed with caution...

    3. I think everything she hated was another tick in the box for me.

  3. Col, I don't mind reading this gritty novel, but I think I'll start with "Michigan Roll" before getting round to "Treasure Coast." The author seems to know exactly what he wants to say and he says it very well.

    1. Agreed. Kakonis writes the type of books I want to read......grit, violence, profanity, with a compelling cadence or rhythm. Sort of modern day good versus evil narratives in contemporary settings, full of flawed and damaged people.

  4. I think this author may be too gritty and hard-boiled for me. But I am very glad that you enjoy his books. And that they are getting reprinted.

    1. Tracy, I wouldn't try and persuade you otherwise to be honest. I do love his books though.