Note: Even though this is Book 2, it works well on its own. Enough background is given that you can pick up this book and enjoy it for its own sake.
This is the long awaited sequel to Hope for the Wicked, which I found disturbing and refreshingly honest at the same time. Pennies for the Damned is a mix of flashbacks to happier, more fruitful times with Mo & Larry gainfully employed, and Larry’s present. Larry made it out of Mexico scarred, both physically and emotionally, and has decided to head home. It’s time for a family reunion. His brother, Jaime, has Down Syndrome. His father is being released from prison after doing time for pedophilia. Before Larry can get down to business, other, darker business comes knocking on his door.
Edward Lorn does not disappoint with this long awaited sequel. In fact, I found this book to be a bit better than the first. I think this is because we get so much Larry time. We really get to delve into his character and connect with him. He really did retire from the hitman business, but circumstances drive him to unbury all those skills. The story starts off with him having some semblance of right and wrong. However, by the end he has been pushed far too hard and the lines get really blurry for him. He goes from being a bit complicated to not so complicated as all the rage boils out of him. It was a very interesting story arc.
The plot was twisted. Plenty of bends and cul-de-sacs. Basically, there were a lot of players and most of them wanted to remain behind the curtains. Larry has to drag them out into the light on at a time, kicking and screaming. I enjoyed being right alongside Larry, having to rethink what I thought I knew and try to figure out who the mastermind is and what their motivations were.
My favorite side character was Brooklyn, a teen sex slave that Larry comes across. She refuses to be left behind and Larry needs info. This book deals with pedophilia and sex trafficking. There are some really intense conversations between Brooklyn and Larry. It made a strong base for their relationship later on.
The ladies are no shrinking violets. Mo’s memory is a real presence in Larry’s life. She lets him know when he is being an idiot. Brooklyn is that tender mix of bravada and damaged kid. Later on, we meet Samantha who is a communications and computer specialist. She has ties to the bad guys and Larry makes use of her skills. She’s not in your face brave or such, but she has skills and brains. I really like that Lorn keeps the genders well balanced and that the ladies aren’t cardboard cut outs of each other.
Lorn also pulls in people of different backgrounds. In some ways, he forces the reader to take a look at prejudices they may have through the assumptions and societal prejudices that Larry has. It’s pretty clever. For instance, Jaime, the brother with Down Syndrome, has a certain lifestyle (don’t want to spoil anything here, so I am being vague) and Larry makes all this instant assumptions that prove to be false. There’s also the hired gun Carol who has a lot of facial scars. He starts off as a rough character but Larry’s regard for the man shifts as we learn more about Carol – he’s more than just an ugly face.
All in all, this was a worthy read. The plot kept me guessing. The characters kept me engaged. The bad guys kept me wanting to punch them in the face. The ending was both touching and uplifting, which was a little unexpected considering how some of Lorn’s other books end.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.