The comedian, actor, (surprisingly fantastic) jazz musician Hugh Laurie? Why yes, a Jack-of-all-trades that one is. The Gun Seller is Hugh Laurie’s first novel, which had apparent promise of a sequel, which has yet to be released. But no matter, as this book is substantial and conclusive on its own, not to mention complex, quick-witted, and humorous. Essentially, I could just hear Hugh Laurie saying the words of the novel to me as I read it, and picturing a Fry-and-Laurie era Laurie acting it all out definitely added to my enjoyment of it.
What we have in The Gun Seller is a retired Army officer in London, named Thomas Lang. Thomas works odd-jobs as a bodyguard and mercenary for connections he made during his time in the army, but when he is approached by a man who wants to hire him for an assassination, Thomas gets into a whole mess of trouble. Thomas chooses to try and warn the man who is to be assassinated that he is a target, only to find that the man who sought to hire him and the target are one in the same. Thomas’ character was the real object under question, by a man named Alexander Woolf, and his daughter Sarah. They tell him of a conspiracy involving international arms dealers that they want his help in stopping. Reluctantly, for the safety of Sarah, Thomas becomes embroiled in this conspiracy, which later is discovered to involve not only “gun sellers,” but also terrorist organizations, the American CIA, and the British Ministry of Defense.
The plot itself has many different layers of covert operation and deceit, and as I was quite tired while reading it (due to being on a fast-paced bus tour around Ireland at the time, not because I was bored with the book), by the end I started getting… confused. If you just go with it, everything eventually works itself out and makes sense, but getting there can be a bit of a struggle at times. Fortunately, Laurie’s writing is fun enough to make even the most baffling sections worth working through. As lighthearted as it seems at times, however, The Gun Seller is quite a serious novel, just told with a softer, quirkier feel, which totally works.
In the end, I really enjoyed this book, regardless of the difficulty I had trudging through the odd sections, knowing who was on whose side, what the odd sentiment said by one person meant to the other, and who we were even rooting for at the end of the day. But The Gun Seller really does resonate with the Hugh Laurie-loving side of me, as I could definitely tell that he wrote it from familiarity with his television work and writings. I would say that this book is not for everyone, but if you like stories of conspiracy organizations, then this one would likely be your fancy. It’s not usually my kind of thing, but this time, I quite liked it.
[Be sure to check out more reviews on the Cannonball Read group blog]