A few weeks ago, I joined Library Thing – a website dedicated to book lovers and book reviewers. One of the services that Library Thing offers is the opportunity to request review copies of both current and upcoming books. I checked the current list of titles offered and put in a request for “Follow the Money” by Ross Cavins. A few days later I was notified that I was one of the members chosen to receive the book. Luckily, it arrived on an afternoon when I was between books, so I dove right in.
On the cover, “Follow the Money” is billed as “a collection of interconnected short stories”. That, more than anything is what led me to request the book. I don’t normally read much short form fiction – but adding in a thematic element to join a series of stories together is right up my alley. I love a story that makes a non-obvious or previously unseen connection to another story (Wicked). I love a movie that looks at the same event from many different angles (Noises Off…). I love an author who pays off the careful attention by his or her readers by recalling characters or events from previous works (Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay). Give me a taste of one of those elements and I am intrigued.
As the title suggests, “Follow the Money” follows a large sum of money as it passes through various hands over the course of ten stories. Some are very straightforward, some border on the absurd. Characters weave in and out through the stories, often providing a missing perspective from a previous tale, and rounding out the overall narrative. There are kidnappings, car thefts, murders, robberies, con men, golf games, medical anomalies, strippers, televangelists, bookies, Cougars, a Christmas calamity, and the unfortunate use of a big toe as a replacement for a severed thumb.
As you follow the money through each story, you begin to see that the money itself may be causing problems for each subsequent owner. It almost always changes hands through means of thievery or greed. And while the money brings each joy for a while, it never leaves them truly happy – it’s presence in their lives is always transitory, leaving each person worse off than before they received it. Whether by conscious decision or happenstance, Cavins weaves a cautionary tale about the dangers of looking to money as the source of happiness.
Cavins does a remarkable job of weaving all ten of these stories together. Some are not as strong as others – but taken on the whole they make for an enjoyable reading experience. The book is a quick read, but it’s packed with bits of Southern culture, wry observations on life, and some genuinely funny moments. Cavins says things that many people think on a daily basis – but few say out loud (and even fewer put down on paper). If sex, drinking, more sex, an occasional car crash, and just a little more sex will offend you – this is not the book to put on your reading pile. If, however, you are the person who finds yourself watching “Jackass” and saying “I can’t believe they just did/said/ate that” – all while laughing hysterically – this book will be right at home on your nightstand.
I enjoyed “Follow the Money”. It’s clear that Cavins is more Natural Lite than Heineken in the humor department (after you read story number 9 in the book, that will make far more sense) – and I liked that about the book. The stories flowed well from one to the other and he brought the titular money full circle in the last story – a touch that I particularly enjoyed. Had this just been a humorous collection of unrelated short stories about people doing stuff, I wouldn’t have made it out of the third story. As it was, I found myself following the money through it story and see where it would lead next. Thankfully, it led to a bit of laughter and a few days of reading enjoyment.
* Full Disclosure – I receieved a review copy of this book through Libray Thing, from the author. I also recieved a note from the author touting the book by exploring the pitfalls of fried seafood and flatulence. In spite of that, I still read and enjoyed “Follow The Money”. You can find out more about Ross Cavins at the appropriately named – rosscavins.com. You can read my interview with Ross Cavins here.
*A copy of this book was provided to thewordzombie.com by the author for the purpose of this review
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