The Strange Death of Father Candy: A Suspense Novel
by Les Roberts
Cover Artist: Design: David Baldeosigh Rotstein
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312566333
Date: 25 October 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Les Roberts' standalone mystery, The Strange Death of Father Candy, is a volatile piece of bloody noir that is extremely fast paced and highly engaging. Because of foul language, graphic sex scenes and acts of torture involving mutilation, it is definitely an adult mystery intended for mature audiences and those who are not faint of heart. The reader will be introduced to the "Youngstown Tune-up", which isn't normal maintenance you have done at Firestone. The mob's intended victim turns the key in his vehicle's ignition, which causes the dynamite beneath his seat to explode. The vehicle then becomes a funeral pyre.
The setting is a most interesting one. The year is 1985 and Youngstown, Ohio is under mob rule. Not one mob family, but two mob families, the Severinos and the Mangiones, and they despise and kill each other. Everyone lives in fear of them. Everyone, including the children, works for them performing illegal services. I felt as though I was watching an old Western film where all the townspeople live in terror of the one evil land baron who owns everything. police officers, lawyers, and politicians are all very corrupt in Youngstown. They not only turn a blind eye to the illegal gambling casinos but also play there. If the time is 1985, I wonder what it is like in present day Youngstown. Do mobsters still rule there?
The novel's protagonist, Dominick "Nicky" Candiotti, is also as interesting as the setting. Dominick grew up in Brier Hill, a violent neighborhood; he was forced to fight the bullies. No longer able to take the corruption, he eventually said goodbye to Youngstown and joined the Army. Delta Force Special Ops turned him into a ruthless killing machine. Ironically, he never could escape the violence of Youngstown. It was bred in him. After the Army, he moved to Chicago where he owns a construction company that builds houses. Unfortunately, he could never build a happy home for himself. His high school sweetheart, Diane Burnham, remained in Youngstown; he has a passionate affair with her but discovers she's not the same sweet girl he once knew.
Richard was the only sibling with which Dominick maintained a close relationship. His other siblings are Alfonso, the crooked, brownnosing detective, and Teresa, the bored, vulgar housewife. In fact, most of the women in Dominick's life are vulgar, providing much of the novel's comic relief. I would love to provide examples but none of them are printable. The best word to describe these women begins with 'b' and rhymes with witch. One may ask if there is any romance in this novel? No, mostly lust. There is, however, the love of family. Dominick loves Richard so much that he is willing to risk his life to avenge his death. He also loves Alfonso and Teresa, but to a lesser degree because they're not worth the powder to blow out their brains. My words, not Dominick's.
If you enjoy vigilante justice films and novels, then I highly recommend Les Roberts' The Strange Death of Father Candy. As I stated before, it is a bloody, violent shoot 'em up noir. Don't expect a shocking ending with a lot of surprises. The mystery is straightforward. Dominick simply tortures his victims until his questions are answered. Nevertheless, The Strange Death of Father Candy is a good standalone mystery that will appeal to fans of noir. The biggest shock or surprise will come if readers learn that there is a sequel.
At the novel's conclusion, all loose ends were nicely tied up. A Federal Agent tries to convince Dominick to move from Chicago to Youngstown but he refuses. I don't blame him; I wouldn't want to live in a mob-infested hellhole.