This is the début novel by MATTHEW SOLO. A crime thriller about a young man who embarks on an idyllic holiday in an effort to put some upsetting events behind him and move on. Whilst there, he has to make a decision, to take a choice. The result was not what he expected, neither was what happened next. Suddenly he finds himself in a life changing situation and gets more than he bargained for. Love, lies and murder are his new path and he discovers he is not the only one keeping secrets.
Chapter 1 – The awakening
The room slowly came into focus, as did the sounds of grunts coming from the other side. The grunts were followed by a gravelly cough, preceding the most unpleasant sound of somebody clearing their throat before spitting. I was not alone.
The room was dimly lit at best, but it was clear that where there should be walls, there were bars. I was in a cell. My ‘cell-mate’ was sitting upright and staring straight at me. He was big, very big! He looked like a mountain shaped like Buddha. Behind him, a feint electric light glowed like the sunrise in some strange and distant place. Only the place wasn’t distant, it was here, and where I was. And this Buddha was not smiling and did not look happy.
“Where am I?” I thought. And before I could process that thought and work out why I was here; the mountain replied.
“You’re in jail!”
His response offered neither any comfort, nor any new information as to my whereabouts except to confirm what I had already thought. I also realized that I had not contained my inner monologue and best be careful what I thought next.
“County. You came in last night.”
“Do you know what for?”
As the room came more and more into focus, I knew quite clearly why I was here. What I didn’t know was how I got here and how I got caught. The pain in my head grew more intense and I began to feel nauseous.
“I think I’m going to be sick.”
Buddha stood as I tried to stand. He called for a guard. The cell was hot and lacked fresh air. Even with bars instead of solid walls the absence of oxygen was conspicuous. As I lifted myself off the bunk, I felt incredible pains in my abdomen and before I knew why; I was falling. I was unconscious before I hit the ground.
The next time my eyes opened the cell was filled with light. Not artificial light this time but bright, strong daylight. The minimal air that was there carried a new smell, the smell of tobacco smoke. This time it was me coughing as I stared up to the stained, flaking paint of the ceiling.
Buddha was standing in the corner of the cell. He had one arm raised and fed through the bars, grasping them from the other side. His left hand held a cigarette that he inhaled on deeply. The smell of smoke filled my nostrils, but did little to disguise his awful body odour.
“I’ve been better.”
“You went down pretty hard my friend.”
Calling me his “friend” brought a strange comfort to my predicament as I tried to raise my body to a sitting position. My head felt worse than ever and I there was a sharp stinging pain in my nose that wasn’t there before. I lifted my hand to inspect the area gently with my fingers. It had already had some attention paid to it, as I could feel the gauze fabric of an attached bandage.
“Hit yourself pretty bad you did! Mind you, looked pretty bad when they brought you in.”
He paused as I inspected my fingertips expecting to see blood accompany such pain. All the time my senses returning closer to some level of normality. I could smell something new, something chemical. I recognized the smell, but it was clouded by the musky smell of sweat and cigarettes. I took a slow inhale through my nose and stared around confused lifting my hand to cover my mouth.
“Bleach! From when you was sick.”
“I was sick?”
“When you dropped, you was sick.”
“They came and cleaned it up with bleach.”
“Said you’d been drinkin’ so much you crashed your car.”
“I asked them. Said they found you on the side of the road, in a gully. Passed out at the wheel. D.U.I.”
“I did? I mean I was? Where?”
“I dunno. Somewhere close I guess.”
Thoughts rushed back into my head as did the images.
“Oh my god, am I in trouble?”
“You’re in jail my friend, ‘course you’re in trouble.”
“Did they bring me in with anything?”
“What do you mean?”
“Did I have anything with me when they brought me in?”
“Like a case. Like a big heavy silver case!”
The sense of urgency in my voice captivated him as he stared at me. The smoke poured from his mouth and slid gently up his face. Like water sliding over a rock it seemed to cling to every part of the surface before escaping from the other side.
“They don’t bring you in here with your stuff.”
I stood straight up without so much difficulty. The pain in my body and my head was replaced by a foreboding that took control of my senses. This didn’t last though. Staring at Buddha eye to eye, my legs felt weak and I retreated to sitting on the bunk.
“You got some story to tell? ‘Cause I got plenty of time.”
Buddha’s words were matched by a sincerity in his voice. He stepped towards me and sat heavily on the other end of the bunk. The force of him sitting raised the end I was on like some silly Laurel and Hardy see-saw sequence. I realised that Buddha was not such a mean and threatening person as I had originally thought.
“What’s your name?”
“Arthur, but my friends call me Bear.”
“My name is Mark.”
“What do you your friends call you?”
We both smiled
“What are you in for Bear?”
Bear looked at me and paused. He smiled appreciatively that I had called him by the name he associated with friendship. He took his time answering and glanced across the room as if to check if anyone was listening.
“Just this an’ that. I never was too good at anything but being bad. I seem to keep endin’ up here for one thing or another. What about you?”
“I wouldn’t know where to start to be honest. Everything seems so unbelievable. And then waking up here. It’s quite a strange thing really.”
“But you’re not from ‘round here are you?”
“No, I’m English.”
“I knew you didn’t sound normal when you speak.”
I tried to smile but the tension in my bruised face denied me the pleasure. It had no constraint over my vocals though and I couldn’t hold back the cheeky little laugh that followed.
“What you in here for really? You can tell me. Everyone tells me stuff ‘cause they know I don’t tell nobody else.”
“To be honest Bear, I think I’m in a lot of trouble. The only thing is, I can’t remember how I got here.”
“They said you were D.U.I. when they brought you in last night. They said for me to look out for you if you woke up.”
“What is D.U.I.? You said that earlier too.”
“It means you been drinkin’ or somethin’ when you been drivin’. And you had a crash.”
“That’s all they said?”
“They didn’t say nothin’ ‘bout your silver case. What’s in the case?
“There’s a lot of money in that case Bear. And there are five people dead because of it.”
He looked at me seriously. His bottom lip flickered gently as he paused. I don’t know if he was afraid of what he was about to ask, or simply not sure how to phrase the question. His eyes probed mine as he gently mouthed the first word of his question, but no sound passed his lips. I knew exactly what he was going to ask.
“Did you… did you kill them, Mark?”
It seemed the fear I had felt when I originally woke up, had shifted from me to him. His eyes still locked on mine; held a strange sadness. I felt unsure how to answer his question, but for the first time in a long time telling the truth was the best way to do just that.
The throbbing pain returned to my face. I felt the heat of the sun burning onto me through the bars and the cold realisation that maybe this is how things were going to be.
Bear held his gaze. He waited patiently for the next words to leave my mouth. I looked at him so hard that my eyes saw through him. They saw into the world where I had been. The world where everything had been okay. Alright. Safe. The world where one question asked was all it took to change my life.
And here I was again. Back in the cell. Back in the prison. Back in the belief that I could hide behind one question. Only this time, I was not asking the question.
“Not all of them Bear. Not all of them…”
What people are saying
Totally brilliant, I couldn’t put it down!!! Once I started I had to keep going , wonderful descriptive prose. Buy this now!
Loser is an exciting and easy to read thriller and a competent debut from British born Matthew Solo. There’s enough sex to keep “Grey” fans happy and yet it’s surprisingly restrained. The graphic descriptions of our eponymous anti-hero’s visions are not restrained however, and make a stark contrast to the persona of the flawed but likeable character.
This story leads you down a dangerous path. I was drawn in by the unpredictable plot twists and the shocking actions of this average guy.
This was a great thriller, with some unexpected twists, my only reason for the star missing is that it is too short. And the price has held steady for months now, which usually means the book is still selling like hot cakes!
There could have been much more story gone into the thing, why didn’t the bad guys come after the money, why was our hero too stupid to realise he had come across bad money, and why didn’t a proper forensics search of the murder scenes put the police onto him?
Apart from the obvious flaws above I still enjoyed the read, recommended and I can understand why it sells like hotcakes!
This book was recommended to me by a friend of the author I had absolutely no idea what to expect but was not disappointed. From the moment I started reading I could not put it down, it has everything you could possibly want from a good book griping from start to finish with so many twists and turns I was on the edge of my seat never knowing what to expect next. Definitely worth getting, I have just purchased his new book flyboy and can’t wait to get stuck in.
Honestly I didn’t know what to expect from the book. But as soon as i started reading it, i did hold on to it for next 2 days until the end.
That’s the book you can not stop reading and wish it never ends…
The way the story rolls out is brilliant. You’d think you could guess what happens next, but no no no… The author is pleasantly teasing you with more action you wouldn’t expect.
Can’t wait for more from M Solo
ok, so I know the author, but I can HONESTLY say that this book was so easy to get into,
and once there, so hard to put down. So many twists and turns right up until the end.
Am now on to Flyboy – which is double the size, thank goodness, as I didn’t want Loser to end
so soon. Thankyou, Matthew, for a great first novel.
Money, sex and murder – what more could you want from a crime thriller? I enjoyed this book very much and can recommend it to anybody who likes the genre.
Although the story is mainly set in and around Sand Diego, America, Mark, our hero of sorts, is also British and Solo conveys this through a deliberate choice of words and dialogue. The story is quite simple, with the complexities of Mark’s neurosis never fully explained. That said, it’s not difficult to work out.
An excellent début novel. Starting with the Loser, a nobody in jail, not knowing how he got there, he begins to retell his story: From the moment when he felt like a bigger Loser than the nobody in jail, through action, death, love and life, as this Loser discovers there is use in being a nobody, to his eventual drive down the road to ‘salvation’ and all the possibilities that await him. Well-paced story telling. Just pick it up and read it.
I must be honest, I bought this because it was cheap and the cover looked cool. I was so surprised that when I started reading it because I couldn’t put my Kindle down. The pace is really fast and you feel like it’s a film not a book. There is a simple story with a good plot that really changes in the middle. I was hooked from the first chapter. I know the writer has other books and I hope they’re as good as this.
Defiantly worth a read whether it’s something for the commute, the beach or just an afternoon read.
The characters are all well written and you definitely feel you know them well by the end.
The ending is not what I was expecting when I first started reading!!!
I know Matthew Solo is writing more and I for one can’t wait to read them!!
I purchased Loser to pass the time whist travelling on a business trip. Little did I know this would end up being the highlight!
Loser is a superbly written, engrossing crime thriller, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing right till the end then brings you down with a crash. Not going to give the story away but the final scene stays with you a long time after you’ve put it down.
The whole undertone of the story is realistically set from the beginning as we follow the protagonist on what becomes an emotional yet disturbing journey of self discovery. The violence is gritty, detailed and realistic but never gratuitous and you feel as if you are right there with him, though all the twists and turns of his new life as he slowly recreates himself.
As I said I don’t want to give it away but I highly recommend you give this a read. It’s not a particularly long story, so can be squeezed into a day or two and will keep you hooked till the end!!
5* to the author and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!! 🙂
The smell of smoke filled my nostrils, but did little to disguise his awful body odour.
The sense of urgency in my voice captivated him as he stared at me.
I tried to smile but the tension in my bruised face denied me the pleasure.
I think I’m in a lot of trouble. The only thing is, I can’t remember how I got here.
With every step I took towards him, he dragged himself further away from me.
There’s a lot of money in that case, Bear. And there are five people dead because of it.
As if I was a moving light in an otherwise darkened room.
Everyone had a look of sorrow on their face, a look of sympathy; everyone, except the boy.
How someone who had been so close to me had drifted so far away.
There it was: Calling to me: Calling me an idiot: Calling me a loser: Calling me the loser.
It was a collection of history, of memories, almost lost, but lost on me.
I had a window seat and a birds-eye view of nothing.
White and grey fluffy clouds lined the planet and hid any features of interest that lay below.
The clock read 6:26. Damn the way it mocked me.
A moment’s spectacle left residing almost unrecognizable in the gutter.
My arms were folded behind my head. Unable to focus on any detail in the ceiling, I stared into infinity.
Drinking coffee after eating and then having a refill was not conducive to aid sitting in a café staring out at a lifeless street.
My lonely room was adequate solace from the tedium of the streets.
I’m sorry to say this, Maria, but you have bad taste in men.
The gun was cold. It was heavy too, much heavier than I had imagined.
As the mechanism of the lock turned, a bead of sweat ran down my brow and into my right eye.
I felt nervous with discomfort and trembled as I took a deep breath.
His limited vocabulary of obscenities only antagonised the situation and increased the fear I was feeling.
I could not remember such fear. And then I remembered the gun.
A wisp of smoke ascended to form a shroud of flesh pink and saffron as it consumed the colours emanating from the screen.
The muscles pulsed as they contracted, stretching the sinews that joined them to the exposed bone.
The gun felt natural in my hand. It was solid. It was warm. It had become part of me.
I looked hard at those beautiful eyes of hers. As I did so, I watched her left eye begin to haemorrhage.
I was not afraid. I had been afraid my entire life. I felt a power, a new intoxicating power.
For the first time in my life, I felt in control of my destiny.
My mind filled with the most bizarre combination of images, some sexual, some gruesome, some gory.
I found the images overwhelming, intensely so. I was under the influence of my thoughts, aroused to a point I could not control anymore.
There was Julie. She was facing me. She was naked. There were fireworks behind her.
I felt alive! For the first time in my life… I FELT ALIVE!
It had started as an alcohol fuelled night and concluded as energetically as any night had ever ended.
They toyed with me, mocking my accent. And I loved it!
How can I think that freshly squeezed orange juice tastes more acidic than juice that’s not freshly squeezed when I have no idea what acid actually tastes like.
I did so without thinking of any consequence, without a thought that a note of this kind could raise any suspicion.
There was a strange combination of passions in the room.
There was a victorious freedom in the air.
There was a vulnerability that this threesome had exposed, some deep, hidden baggage weighing heavily on her soul.
There was no schedule, no agenda. We filled the bed like a blissful octopus.
The lights flashed in a cacophony of colour that was visible even through my tightly-closed, burning eyes.
The clock made no sound as the night-time ticked away.
My eyelids would close as I drifted into a world of memory and fantasy.
We were lost in time, lost in each other’s arms, lost in each other’s kisses.
It was a legendary drive that would have been spoiled by putting the roof up.
I turned to the voice and with an intense blow to my face, the lights from the car disappeared into the void of blackness…
And there I was, standing, all alone in the darkness, in the void.
I watched as she exploded into a million tiny stars of light.
Darkness had returned to this strange, unearthly place.
She wiped my face as we whispered to each other, her soft hand trembling against my skin.
We staggered in front of the car. The headlights made the sky appear starless.
The only other source of light was the moon, which shone proudly in this desolate place.
It didn’t hurt though. Not even a sting as it entered my wound and swam with my blood.
But, I was where I wanted to be. I was away from the headlights. I was in the dusty dark beyond.
His rage was silenced with a loud bang. It was the bang of a gunshot, but not his.
All the pain in all the world could not hold me back.
The gun just clicked, as lifeless as the corpse beneath me.
Using the rims from the car wheels, we quietly and solemnly dug shallow graves.
She approached me open arms. I pushed her backwards with open hands.
Hearing my words, she buried her face in her hands and muted her own scream.
I felt sorry for her and at the same time I hated her.
The room began to spin as hatred filled every cell in my body.
A lone tear ran across my bruised cheek and dripped off my chin onto the torn and bloody t-shirt below.
And across my face, an imaginary smile was forming and getting bigger all the time.
Andrews held his hand up. Not quite a wave, but definitely a goodbye.
Excited, the invisible smile returned to my face. It surely stretched from ear to ear.
And then, as if by magic, as if the entire universe had some ridiculous grand design for me all along
To the right – San Diego, to the left – Las Vegas, behind me – death