Ghostman(Knopf, 2013)

Novelist Roger Hobbs ’11 mesmerized Reed students in Capehart room last month. Photo by Leah Nash

Roger Hobbs ’11

By Audrey Van Buskirk

A gripping suspense novel packed with bank heists, shooting sprees, and criminal depravity, Ghostman seems more like the work of a grizzled FBI veteran than the first novel of a freshly minted Reed grad. But Roger’s story of a charismatic master of disguise, occasionally known as Jack Delton, quickly defies expectations. When he’s not pulling off insanely intricate schemes, Delton translates ancient manuscripts.

“Some kids collect model planes. I read Latin,” he tells a fellow grifter, speaking of his love for the Aeneid and his admiration for Aeneas’ willingness to put the ends above the means. “I felt like I didn’t exist, except when I read that book. The only other time I felt more alive was the day I first bashed a man’s head in and robbed him in broad daylight.”

“Fletere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo,” he tells his doomed companion.

“It means, ‘If you can’t reach heaven, raise hell.’”

The plot involves an armored car robbery gone gruesomely awry in Atlantic City. Delton is called in to “fix” it by an elusive character he owes a big favor to. He flies from his home base in Seattle to try to set things right before the millions literally explode. Meanwhile, the narrative flashes back to a misbegotten heist in Kuala Lumpur that left him deep in debt. 

Ghostman is a page-turner. Yet there’s an interesting subtext about the search for identity. What makes us who we are? What happens if you change your appearance? What are you willing to do to get ahead? Where do you draw the line between justifiable and evil? Roger lets these questions dangle and float, raising Ghostman well above the typical thriller. You’ll be looking forward to the sequel before you’ve reached the last page.