In November, 2018, with legalization of sports betting on the horizon, WagerEasy, a British sports betting conglomerate, has set up shop in the Chicago market looking for shortcuts. Eddie’s old friend, an employee of WagerEasy, has been murdered. The sports gambling market is on a knife’s edge: the illegal black market bookies backed by the mob against the well-funded foreign invader. Eddie and his uncle, retired police detective Mike O’Connell with the right contacts, sets up a meeting with a Chicago gambling boss suspected of ordering the murder. The Chicago gambling boss claims he’s being framed by WagerEasy, the new threat in town.
Eddie decides to go undercover and secures a job at WagerEasy. With the assistance of industry insider Tara Reilly, Eddie discovers that ruthless factions within the mob are fighting to overthrow the old guard and upend WagerEasy’s move into Chicago. Eddie finds enemies coming at him from all angles and must risk everything to get justice.
“.. Farrell also beautifully realizes the setting of Chicago in winter, which helps to enhance the procedural elements of the story. He skillfully unfolds the complicated tale as Eddie delves deeper into the underworld and finds out how it intersects with the impending legalization of sports betting in Illinois. The novel presents a bleak landscape of rival gangs always looking to double-cross one another as well as a memorably startling characterization of the Chicago police and court system. Eddie is the just the right kind of noble but flawed hero to travel between the two realms, and Farrell crafts an array of familiar and unfamiliar genre elements into a genuinely gripping read. A smart and fast-paced crime drama that will leave readers wanting more from this author.“
–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
In August, 2014, years before the legalization of sports betting in the United States, when a mob-connected bookie named Zany is murdered, Eddie O’Connell is assigned to take over Zany’s operation and find the killer. The trail leads to an exclusive, private gambling club where simulcast wagering on horse racing is used as a front for illegal sports betting. With the assistance of Paula “Rudi” Rudinger, the manager of Zany’s bookie operation and former lover, Eddie meets those who owe gambling debts. Eddie had run up a gambling debt of his own, but now finds himself doing collection.
Another bookie makes a grab for the gambling club’s business and seems like the perfect suspect. Eddie doesn’t buy the theory and must walk a fine line amid the cops, the club’s high rollers, and a local crime boss who only cares about the store’s flow of revenue during the upcoming football season. Each faction wants Eddie out of the picture, but he won’t leave until he gets justice for Zany.
“A crackerjack crime novel about an upright Chicago bartender on the hunt for a killer.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Wager Tough is a taut thriller featuring a flawed but endearing antihero.” – Indies Today Book Reviews
“This latest outing from Farrell is even more compulsively readable than WagerEasy. The author has a pitch-perfect ear for the intricacies of the no man’s land Eddie inhabits. He’s “caught between two vicious worlds,” beholden to the Burrascano crime family and its nefarious but oddly ethical strictures and the blue-wall codes of his uncle the cop. …Farrell has mastered the art of action-thriller pacing, punctuating the novel with unexpected turns, and each of his characters has a distinctive voice and motivation. The everyday dangers of Eddie’s world – as he navigates the violence of the mob and the violence of the law – are expertly limned, and the result feels very assured: “Zany used to say that sometimes horses find a soft spot they never expected and they run the race of their life,” Eddie reflects at one point. This novel and its predecessor comfortably occupy that soft spot; they both probe vulnerability to good effect.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)