Review: Easy Money — Jens Lapidus

Read: 29
To Go: 71

Book List:
21. The First Deadly Sin — Lawrence Sanders
22. Exclusive — Sandra Brown
23. White Hot — Sandra Brown
24. The Black Ice — Michael Connelly
25. The Concrete Blonde — Michael Connelly
26. The Retreat — David Bergen
27. Stranglehold — Robert Rotenberg
28. The Black Box — Michael Connelly
29. Easy Money — Jens Lapidus


Finished reading: June 3, 2013

I received Easy Money last summer, in the same books of Sweden prize pack as The Drowning by Camilla Lackberg. So thanks again, HarperCollins Canada! (She says, a full year later…)

In Easy Money, the lives of hardened Serbian criminal Mrado, escaped convict Jorge, and fake-trust fund brat JP intersect in Stockholm’s underground world of cocaine and violence. Though they come from vastly different backgrounds, each is looking for two things: revenge, and a chance at millions.

Since reading Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo series, I’ve found myself more interested in Swedish crime novels, so Easy Money seemed like it’d be a natural fit for me. But, with apologies in advance to Jens Lapidus, who I’m sure is a nice person, Easy Money was by far the worst book I’ve read in 2013—and perhaps in the entire three years I’ve been doing this challenge.

Easy Money had a stop-and-start narrative style that was jarringly difficult to get through, which meant that either the translation was terrible, or the writing was. I’m not sure which, but whatever it was, the book left a bad taste in my mouth. The narration is abrupt, ridiculously so, to convey a sense of urgency about the three main characters. Their thoughts come out in short, choppy sentences, sometimes no longer than one or two words, which feels a little like a being stuck in a rush hour traffic jam. Not exactly the desired effect. And in a misguided attempt to be “street” or “hip,” Easy Money is riddled with embarrassing slang that rings false. Like, laugh-out-loud, who-would-even-say-this false.

Our terrible-slang-speaking leads aren’t exactly charming, either. Like Gene Kerrigan’s The Rage, the men of Easy Money are mostly repulsive. But unlike Kerrigan, a far superior writer, Lapidus is barely able to humanize his characters. One of the strengths of The Rage is that readers can relate to characters who are angry and ruthless and jaded. But in Easy Money, Mrado is so cruel he almost seems inhuman, and surrounds himself with violent misogynists; Jorge is a pathetic, annoying mess. The only one who escapes being totally unrelatable is the naive JP, and his desire to uncover what happened to his sister, Camilla, four years prior is the only reason I continued to slog through the story.

In trying to give his characters a touch more depth,  Lapidus falls into the frustrating trap of using his female characters—like Mrado’s daughter, Lovisa, and Jorge’s sister, Paola—to humanize his leads. Women don’t really exist as individual characters in Easy Money: instead, they’re just plot devices who are used to add shades of grey to the men they’re associated with.

 Easy Money was a frustrating book. Though it’s blasphemous to say, the movie was better. (I watched it a couple of weeks after finishing the book. Man, does Martin Scorcese know what he’s doing.)

Next book: A Lion Among Men — Gregory Maguire

– Kelsey


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