REVIEW: Skim Deep by Max Allan Collins (Nolan #9)

Series: Nolan

Book Number: 9

Read this book for: heist, vintage noir style, action, thriller, adventure

Quick Review: A vintage 70s or 80s heist movie in novel form, complete with all the action, sex, danger, violence and quick twists that the genre holds!

The first new Nolan novel in 33 years from one of the masters of the genre, Max Allan Collins, award-winning author of Road to Perdition.

The onetime world-class thief Nolan – now happily gone straight with his own restaurant/nightclub – whisks his longtime lover Sherry off to Vegas for a trip to a wedding chapel and a honeymoon stay. But an eye-in-the-sky security cam at a casino spots Nolan, whose past catches up with him when he’s thought to be casing the joint. An old “friend” sees Nolan as the perfect patsy for a scheme to heist the weekly skim haul, and when the former thief’s young frequent accomplice, Jon – a musician in the casino’s house band – finds the couple mysteriously, suspiciously missing, it’s up to Nolan’s Best Man to keep wedding bells from tolling a funeral march.

SKIM DEEP is a racy, action-packed heist thriller — a movie on the page. However, it adds flavour with several surprising twists that take it beyond your typical Vegas heist thriller, and a depth of atmosphere that makes it especially visceral.  

This is part of a continuing series featuring Nolan the master thief; the ninth full-length instalment in the set. I have not read any of the other Nolan novels, but that did not impact my enjoyment of this one in any way — there’s more than enough detail to easily follow who the main characters are and what their relationships are to one another. This one can be enjoyed fully as a stand alone piece. 

One of the things any reader of this novel will notice first is the way the atmosphere is finely crafted. The way that Collins captures that gritty, late-Seventies/early-Eighties gritty noir feel is pitch-perfect; you can almost feel the film grain through the page. In fact, I correctly assumed the time period just through the feel of the novel before finding any information in the book that explicitly gave it a date. that kind of atmospheric writing is rare, and Collins does a brilliant job of crafting that dangerous, dirty, organized crime feeling. 

The characters fit perfectly in that vintage movie atmosphere; they’re fairly one dimensional but so richly described that they are very easy to picture. The way that they are written is so visual and visceral, it’s almost impossible not to see them as though they were on film. 

Even the content of the plot makes this feel like a movie, but this is a heist novel with a twist – the thief starts out simply on vacation, and falls victim to the plots of others, rather than proactively trying to launch a heist on his own. When everything else in the novel has the familiarity of an old film, this little change to the way the plot is handled makes the whole thing feel fresh again. 

If you are a fan of some of those vintage heist films, SKIM DEEP is definitely a novel you should check out!

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