The Big Bounce is not your typical Elmore Leonard novel, unfortunately. As a fan of Leonard's work, I have come to expect more from an author hailed as "the greatest crime writer of our time" (New York Times Book Review). Aside from exceptional writing, characterization and a knack for keeping readers turning pages, The Big Bounce is little more than a Big Flop.
There seems to be some confusion around main character Jack Ryan. Is he good or bad? He always wanted to be a pro baseball player, but like most dreams involving fame and fortune, things didn't work out as planned. Instead, Ryan catches a ride with migrant workers to a farm where he's paid to pick baby cucumbers to be used for pickles.
An independent filmmaker catches Ryan using a baseball bat to beat up on his boss. The penalty? He's ordered to leave town. Of course, that would be too easy. After playing ball Ryan refocused his goals; petty crime became a way of life. In this small hick town he sees a chance to make a few hundred bucks and goes for it. This small-time breaking and entering sets up the chain of events leading to the book's climax.
Nancy is the kind of girl you know is trouble. You know if you talk to her there will be trouble; it is possible if you even look at her for too long there could be trouble. She is young, sexy and dangerous because she knows what she has and how to use it. She grew up practicing her skills of sensuality, conning men to make a living, waiting for the right Mr. Sugar Daddy to take care of her. The trouble is, once she found him, she quickly became bored with it all. Not the way of living; no, she adapted well to that. But the thrill of the con was over -- until she spied Jack Ryan.
Life is about waiting for that one big score, that one big bounce. Both a little reckless and a little too cool to want to be the first to back down, Nancy and Jack feed off each other, working their way toward a perfect crime that will make both of them pretty rich. The question is, when things start looking bad, is there a right time to walk away from a con? Or is it already too late once you commit?
Some great characters, some fun scenes, but all in all The Big Bounce is shallow for action. Some of the best parts of the book are one-page flashbacks to when Ryan used to break into homes with an old buddy, Leon Woody. I'd love a book dedicated to their capers, but I'm afraid this novel is just too flat, filled with too much fluff and a fizzling climax.