★★★★★ The author José Saramago once wrote, “Time is our gambling partner on the other side of the table and it holds all the cards of the deck in its hand.” Raf Valone has a perfect life, split between being a successful entrepreneur by day and profitable casino owner by night. Life’s deck seems to be stacked in his favor until his state of the art security system catches casino regular Harry Payefsky, alias Harry Paycheck, conspiring to commit criminal acts. Raf is compelled to testify in the trial, but as the other witnesses begin to vanish, his eyewitness account becomes a matter of life and death. On top of all this, he must deal a beautiful sharp-shooting hacker named Hannah into his life. R.J. Loffredo’s Long Shot sets the pieces for both an intricate plot and a cast of uniformly well-rounded characters, and executes this game plan with skillful flair.
Loffredo plays with narrative structure in creative ways that pay off high dividends as the story progresses. By pacing the novel in surprising ways, he allows each of the characters plenty of breathing room to develop organically. Loffredo masterfully keeps the plot barreling forward while also digging deep into the psyches of his principal characters. His talent for dialogue is impressive, revealing character quirks in even the shortest quips. It’s refreshing to read a thriller where the ingenue-turned-femme fatale has a full backstory. In the hands of a lesser author, Hannah would have been long legs and a big gun and not much else, but Loffredo transforms her into the most fascinating character in the entire novel. A worthy entry into the genre, Long Shot shoots to kill and hits the thrillingly satisfying mark.