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by Wallace Stroby
Minotaur Books, January 2011
289 pages
ISBN: 0312560257

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Things aren't going very well for Crissa Stone, a clever robber whose mentor, Wayne, is stuck in a prison in Texas. Normally, she hears of a possible assignment through her intermediary, Hector, and works on a team with similarly procured individuals. She's damn good at her job—she's always kept her cool and never had things go wrong. Working with two colleagues, she plans a heist that resulted in only one-third of the expected profit, with her share being roughly $30,000. She needs $250,000 to pay a lawyer to work on getting Wayne out of jail. So against her better judgment, she agrees to participate in the robbery of a high-stakes poker game in Florida. There isn't much time to plan, but the predicted 7-figure payout is too tempting to pass up.

Despite the lack of time to prepare, the robbery goes well until one of the team, Stimmer, kills one of the players in the game. Crissa, Stimmer and the other robber, Chance, are able to get out of there with the money intact; but their troubles have only begun. The victim is the son-in-law of a New Jersey Mob guy, who puts out a hit on the team. The hit man, Eddie the Saint, is a total psychopath and operates like an executioner. Stimmer engages in a major double cross, and Crissa and Chance are on their own. Crissa recognizes that there is no choice but to face up to the threat; the kind of people they are dealing with don't give up.

Crissa is a great character. Despite the fact that she is a criminal, she has a lot of admirable qualities. She is loyal to her friends and resourceful in how she approaches life. The plot is nicely complex, and the suspense rises as Eddie the Saint mows down everyone in his path, with the ultimate showdown between him and Crissa and Chance leading to a satisfying resolution. The book has a noir sensibility but offers some rays of hope along the way. There are just a few minor flaws, things like Crissa being unable to pull the trigger when she has the assassin in her sights in a life-and-death situation.

Over the past few years, Stroby has become an author whose books I look out for. I was originally pulled in by his series set in New Jersey and featuring ex-State trooper Harry Rane. His first standalone, GONE 'TIL NOVEMBER, was one of my favorite reads of 2010. I had hoped that work would turn into a series and was initially disappointed to see that COLD SHOT TO THE HEART was a standalone as well. I needn't have worried—Stroby is an excellent writer, and I found the book to be one that I thoroughly enjoyed. The book is being compared to the best of the Parker books written by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake), and the comparison is a valid one.

§ Formerly a training development manager for a large company, Maddy is now retired and continues to enable the addiction of crime fiction fans as owner of the online discussion group, 4 Mystery Addicts(4MA), while avidly reading in every possible free moment herself.

Reviewed by Maddyv Van Hertbruggen, January 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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