This is one of those mystery/crime novels that's hard to talk about without giving too much away (which seems to be especially true when it comes to darker comedies in that genre). So this is going to have to be vague: The Coaster -- an amusing read, but hard to talk about without spilling the beans. But let's see what I can do:
Rob and Sarah have been married for about 19 years, with a couple of kids, and several horses. Sarah's dad is a self-made, very successful businessman, and Sarah is being groomed to be his successor -- and likely has an even better aptitude for business. Rob, um, is well-liked and good at making it look like he's working. When Sarah's father dies unexpectedly, Rob is even more unexpectedly named trustee and given oversight of the finances.
Not long after this, an old college drinking buddy comes to town to work on a business deal that was put on hold after the death and he begins to use some tactics that aren't going to get him in well with the Better Business Bureau (gross oversimplification, but roll with is). One thing leads to another, and Rob and Sarah find themselves sinking in a metaphorical quicksand of crime. It's pretty nonviolent, and most of the violence is implied.
Rob's really not that likeable when you stop and think about it -- he says he's a good dad and husband, but I'm not sure there's all that much evidence for it. Yeah, I can see how he gets by with superficial relationships in social settings, and even with his friends (or reasonable facsimiles thereof), but as far as family goes? Nope. Early on, especially because we only see her through Rob's eyes, Sarah's even less likeable -- I was at the 20% mark before I noticed any real affection between Bob and Sarah, or any indication at all why someone would like Sarah. After that, I had no problem believing it, they actually start functioning well as a couple (or at least we see it in a way we couldn't before).
Erich Wurster's debut novel, The Coaster, is a charming dark comedy. It was pretty easy to guess what was going on with the criminals and how Rob and Sarah could extricate themselves, and most of the twists weren't that twisty. But, it was a fun ride regardless. Wurster was able to get me to find this pretty unlikeable guy fun and entertaining. I wanted the couple to get out of trouble (relatively) unscathed, and enjoyed seeing if it was possible. The pacing was fine, the wit was sharp and the comedy was the right mix of light and dark for this. A solid first novel that made me interested in seeing more.
Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Poisoned Pen Press
via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for the book.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work -- I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.