Barry Vass’s Free Money is, for the most part, a fast-paced, action-packed thriller, adventure type story.
The story revolves around Jimmy Spencer, a floorman at a casino in Las Vegas, which means he watches over the gaming tables in the casino and makes sure that no one is cheating. Spencer visits a friend and learns about a very lucrative secret, one that people are willing to kill over to learn.
What Vass does best in this story is paint a picture of Las Vegas, from the weather to the food to the lifestyle of the locals. It all has a very authentic feel. And the second half of the story is very compelling, with constant action and some satisfying character development, not to mention great descriptions throughout of Jimmy Spencer’s yappy but loveable dog, Rex.
However, I did find that the first half of the book read a lot like a list of actions. A few chapters felt like Jimmy was merely spelling out his day as well as some descriptions of what people he came across looked like.
The backstory felt like it could be fleshed out more too, at least to me. Jimmy learns about a system, that is not technically cheating, he can use in casinos to make tons and tons of “free money.” But it’s not completely clear why his friend would just give him this secret. Yes, they have known each other for a while, but that doesn’t seem like enough. Also, after Jimmy learns the secret, POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT: his life is in danger, and his friend is murdered. Did his friend even realize he was in danger? Did he have any idea what he was getting Jimmy in to?
Throughout the story, I also felt like the FBI agents who were supposedly protecting Jimmy may not have always been who they seemed. Jimmy, a man who has spent years in Vegas casinos and has probably seen it all and become a decent judge of character, doesn’t seem like the type who would immediately believe someone who approached him randomly and said they were FBI. Even with the IDs.
The first two agents don’t do much to protect him, and in fact take advantage of the secret Jimmy knows. The second set of agents never really explain themselves, nor, despite risking their lives to protect Jimmy and Naomi, do they seem to connect much on an emotional level with their charges.
But, as the story progresses, the stakes get higher and it becomes really easy to root for Jimmy and Naomi to find a way out of their predicament. Vass also incorporates some clever tactics for how the men after Jimmy are able to find him, despite his best efforts to hide.
The way this book ended, I’d be curious about what happens next to Jimmy and Naomi. Personally, I would want to find out what the actual secret to free money was, though there are some things are probably best left as secrets.