Lucas Green is still grieving the sudden loss of his sister just over six months ago, killed by a drunk driver who sped away from the scene, rather than call an ambulance. Thanks to the presence of security cameras, Richard Shaw was caught and prosecuted, but only received a suspended sentence, fine, and community service. Lucas’ energy is now focused on revenge against Shaw. Through a mutual friend, Lucas is put in touch with Dante Okoro, who Lucas is told will help him plan the murder.
Dante is the owner of La Plaisir, a sex shop, and no stranger to planning thefts, but he immediately refuses Lucas’ request. Lucas walks away disheartened, until he acquires himself a gun and sets out to dispose of Shaw himself. Yet, Lucas and Dante’s lives still become entwined, partly because of their shared attraction for one another, but also because of a bet Dante makes with his friend that Lucas will commit the murder on his own. Whilst Lucas observes Shaw’s every move, Dante keeps Lucas under surveillance until Dante realizes that his preoccupation with the younger man has less to do with winning a wager and more to do with genuine affection.
There is undoubtedly an overwhelming atmosphere of melancholy in Lane Swift’s The Losing Game. However, this is necessary for the reader to truly understand why Lucas, who has a mundane job in the HR department of a finance company, would be driven to such drastic and uncharacteristic measures to exact his revenge. To counteract this sense of desperation, the relationship between Dante and Lucas offers hope, both to the men themselves and to the reader. As The Losing Game develops, this budding romance becomes the story’s focus and we acknowledge the fact that as a couple both men are becoming better people: Dante more honest and open to change and Lucas less consumed by his hatred and more confident.
This does not mean that The Losing Game is merely a romance. Swift’s story is well-written with several dramatic twists, which kept me on my toes. However, I felt that during the later chapters the story seemed that it was building to some kind of explosive crescendo, which did not come. Though I thought that in some ways I had been cheated, I also loved the sense of optimism and sentimentality which I was left with.
No review of The Losing Game would be complete without discussing the fact that the story is set in 2035. I really liked how Swift combines the futuristic technology with enough elements of our contemporary world, meaning that the reader is not too far removed from the story and events. The Losing Game has characters that we have to connect with to fully empathize with their decisions and by retaining small items like the Espresso coffee pot, traditional Christmas decorations like tinsel, and still existing homophobia, alongside the “big brother” cameras, electric cars, and medical innovations, Swift allows her reader to do this. In truth, I enjoyed The Losing Game more because Swift does not attempt to make this into science-fiction and she identifies that despite being set nineteen years in the future, the core values of her characters are the same as we have now: family, friends, love — and also sex.
The Losing Game is a novel full of emotion and because of this I understand that it will not be liked by every reader, but I found myself mesmerized by Swift’s world-building, the personalities of her characters, and the way in which her story flowed. In my opinion, The Losing Game is an engaging novel that I am so pleased I have had the opportunity to read.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.