by Stephen Romano
Cover Artist: Photo: Austen Skyline by Donovan Reese / Getty Images
Review by Harriet Klausner
Gallery Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781451668643
Date: 18 September 2012 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Two years ago high tech criminal Elroy Coffin took a bullet to the head when he went after affluent David Hartman for killing his wife, Toni. He recovered from his injury though he suffers from some amnesia, as he cannot recall what Toni looked like. When he failed to sell out his dad, Ringo, the Travis City DA, arranged for Elroy to receive a thirty year sentence for attempted murder. The convict figures he will get out in five years if he behaves though he has had to beat up six big tough guys so far.
Two years into his sentence, a wealthy woman visits Elroy. She promises to get him released within two weeks if he agrees to help her rescue her daughter from Hartman. She also tells him his dad lives under her protection and his wife is a prisoner of Hartman. As he works as part of his release at a toy shop arranged by his new mentor, he decides to hedge his bets and arranges for his Fixer to send him money, a cellphone and tools. However, Hartman sends armed thugs after him who kills the innocent though Elroy survives. His sponsor Jayne Jenison warns Elroy -- no more sidebars or else. As Jenison and her crew prepare for an assault on the Hartman compound, Elroy distrusts his employer almost as much as he does Hartman.
The support cast is solid while Elroy is the prime player whose obsession to torture and kill Hartman has kept him alive. Elroy's target, Hartman, shows how cruel he is when he sends his thugs to shoot at Coffin but instead kills a dozen people while afterward calling his adversary to tell him he expected him to survive but not those around him. Jenson seems as heartless as Hartman though her goal to rescue her young daughter is admirable; Elroy distrusts her anyway as he expects she will sell him and his dad out once the job is done.
This is an action-packed thriller filled with a mantra that "violence is as American as cherry pie" (H. Raps Brown). Even when the antihero spends time in solitary confinement he has to break heads to keep everyone at a distance. Once he is outside he becomes a major target as if he wears a bull's-eye for destruction as the death toll exponentially rises whenever he is around. For instance, anyone within a few feet of him die including the young toy store manager who is an innocent throwaway pawn amongst many treated with deadly disdain by the Hartman and Jenison groups (terrorists are everywhere).
However, the key to this gripping tale is that the violence seems appropriate for this complex multifaceted novel starring hardass people battling for lead dog position in what will be shortlisted as one of the top thrillers of the year.