For a book that is part crime, part dubious choices through fuzzy logic, and part hilarity of circumstance, “Stinking Rich” is a fine balancing act that is fast-paced and a lot of fun.
When he was around 7 years old, Rob Brunet was told by a teacher that he was “doing something special with his writing.” He says he always planned to be a writer “when I grew up,” and this book is proof that he has what it takes.
Although he has been writing for a long time, Toronto-based Brunet says he only sought publication of his short stories about two years ago. His stories have since run in several crime magazines.
“I was trying to find a home for the novel and finding my way in the community recognizing that there were a lot of crime fiction magazines, either electronic or print, where I could submit stories and get them published and start to build an audience,” he explains.
“Stinking Rich,” Brunet’s first novel, clearly illustrates his ability to find humour in even the stickiest situations.
He says humour has always worked for him. “I’ve been influenced by people like my father and my grandmother who have very dark senses of humour and they’re not dark people at all. They’re light, wonderful people but they know how to laugh when things have gone really, really, dark.”
The story is set in the backwoods of the Kawarthas area in south-central Ontario, which is a magnet for summer tourists and home to some interesting people.
The characters don’t rely on honesty as a way of getting through life. Rather, they look for shortcuts and make dubious choices that universally create problems and cause trouble for themselves and others.
For all the tension and mishaps each of those assembled in this motley crew encounter, real tragedy does occur and trouble prevails despite coverups and lies. In fact, that is how the story rolls along, as mishap and happenstance lead to arrests, a rabbit warren of competing plans, and of course more vexations for all.
For readers, though, it’s what the protagonist Danny Grant encounters when he tries to retrieve a satchel of cash that belongs to a biker gang that he stumbled upon and then stashed away four years ago. This is where things get really hairy and the bad guys come into their own.
Brunet explains Danny this way: “He’s definitely a protagonist who I view as good even if many of the decisions he makes are not necessarily right as far as being a good decision or being a legal or morally defensible perspective unless you’re in his place.”
Even when Danny has a gun in his face he manages to evade the bikers, who have names like Perko Ratwick and Marty (Mongoose) Muldoon, and are bent on revenge as they try to get their money back.
He gets help from his super-straight neighbour as well as from Skerritt and Buzz, two natives whose clear thinking and friendship are proven as they come through for him when it counts and always have his back even when he isn’t aware of it.
There’s no lack of people vying for the bag of money, with a lot of finagling and action as they all try to get their hands on it. If the overall impression from the characters is that you can get what you want in life dishonestly, it also shows how such thinking can take the situation to a contrary and unexpected place.
The title of the book becomes clear as the story progresses. No spoiler alerts here, though. You will have to read the book to find out what it means.
“Stinking Rich” is a solid first novel for Brunet, who is already working on two other books that bring us up to date on life in the Kawarthas and reintroduce some of the characters in this book.