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Cold Shot to the Heart by Wallace Stroby
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312560256
Date: 18 January 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Crissa Stone is a professional criminal with a conscience; she's never killed anyone. With the help of her two partners, Bobby Chance and Victor Stimmer, she robs an illegal card game at the La Paloma hotel in Fort Lauderdale. Unfortunately, Stimmer accidentally shoots a player, Louis Letteri, in the heart, killing him in cold blood. Letteri is the son-in-law of New Jersey mobster Tino Conte who hires an insane ex-con, Eddie Santiago, to kill Stimmer. However, Eddie has plans of his own; he wants the half million that was stolen from the card game and will kill anyone who gets in his way.

Wallace Stroby's Cold Shot to the Heart is a great example of crime noir. Its fast-paced, explosive action, with plenty of guns and dead bodies, will keep the reader turning pages. This seems to be Stroby's trademark. His novels have cruel, brutal killings and a high body count. Stroby's previous novel, Gone 'til November, also involved the theft of a large amount of money and several dangerous parties interested in getting it back.

The main character in Gone ‘till November is Deputy Sara Cross of Hopedale, Florida. I instantly fell in love with her. An admirable woman, she is raising her son Danny, who has leukemia, on her own. The main character in Cold Shot to the Heart is also female. Crissa Stone (one of many aliases) is raising her young daughter Maddie from afar; she gives her cousin Leah money for child support. I admire Crissa's ethics for never wanting to take a human life; however, she is still a criminal.

Stealing is amoral; it causes emotional and financial stress. Some items, such as heirloom jewelry, are irreplaceable. Crissa steals money and spends it as though it is free and no one is being hurt. She is a very intelligent woman and I feel that, if she tried hard enough, she could leave her life of crime behind. However, stealing, like alcoholism, can be a hard addiction to break.

The villain in Cold Shot to the Heart is definitely Eddie Santiago (a.k.a. Eddie the Saint) who has just been paroled. Within two hours after being freed, he unmercifully kills a man in cold blood and steals the money from his safe. He can't be trusted and betrays several minor characters. I detest this man. He is evil personified. Wallace Stroby has a talent for bringing characters to life.

Reading mysteries has convinced me never to live in New Jersey, especially Newark. A lot of crime noir, including those written by Wallace Stroby, are set in Newark. With its overabundance of mobsters who preside over strip bars, slums, and crumbling warehouses, this city has been given a bad reputation. Fortunately, in Cold Shot to the Heart, the reader is taken on various trips to Fort Lauderdale beach, San Antonio, and Manhattan. It is the Christmas season. Therefore, it is very gloomy, cold and snowy, especially in the quaint, picturesque little town of Litchfield in upstate New York, where Crissa dreams of buying a house. Unfortunately, the dream turns into a nightmare.

For those who enjoy violent crime noir, then Cold Shot to the Heart gets my highest recommendation. An entertaining, engaging read, this novel is sometimes shocking and sometimes warmhearted. Perhaps this novel should've been titled Cold Shot to the Head because Eddie likes to aim for the head, especially when he wants his target's death to be quick. (Other times, when he desires information, he uses his knife.) However, Wallace Stroby also likes to write about characters who will touch your heart. I can just imagine the pain Crissa must've felt while watching her daughter at the playground, knowing she couldn't touch her. That was a cold shot to my heart.

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