Charlie Hardie used to be an off-the-record security consultant to the Philadelphia police. Then three years ago a case he was working on went badly wrong. Now Charlie house sits for the rich and famous, drinking booze and watching old movies whilst making sure the house stays in one piece whilst their owners are on holiday or film location. His latest assignment is to guard the house of a composer. Only when he turns up there’s a D-list actress hiding out in the house who claims she is being hunted by professional hitmen – the Accident People. Charlie decides she’s whacko, but then strange things start to happen and it soon becomes apparent they are under siege. The only way out seems to be in a body bag unless they can find a way to survive.
The premise of Fun and Games is a great one – that for a price there are a bunch of Hollywood directors who script ‘accidents’, creating deaths which are accompanied by a plausible narrative. The accidents are then played out by a group of unscrupulous actors and professional hitmen using a van load of tricks. For me this was a book of two halves. In the first half, the book felt like this was Swierczynski’s attempt to cross-over into the mainstream. It lacked the edge and other-worldliness of his other novels. There was also a huge over use of the character’s name, with Hardie appearing dozens of times on each page. Once I started to read ‘he’ instead it read more fluidly. The second half felt much more like a Swierczynski story – bold, brash and adrenaline filled action. At the start of one of the chapters an Alfred Hitchcock quote is used: ‘A far-fetched story must be plausibly told, so your nonsense isn’t showing.’ Swierczynski normally excels at this, especially in Secret Dead Men and Expiration Date, but a little too often in Fun and Games there is slippage, especially with Hardie’s seemingly super-human qualities – the man will simply not die! – and the contrived set up of some scenes. That said, this is an enjoyable romp which works off a convincingly pitched premise – it would also make a great movie or TV series.