Cosmo Aniello, a former Brooklyn gangster hiding out in a witness protection program in Montana, fears his low-key existence as handyman "Ted Sweeney" is cooked when he finds a body with its throat slit seated in his favorite recliner.
All things considered, the town of Rockjaw has been pretty good for Sweeney. Though he's divorced from Marilyn, his wife when they were transplanted to Montana, he gets along with her—even though she has become, of all things, a cop. And he entertains thoughts of marrying his girlfriend Aggie, a twice-divorced librarian with apple-pie qualities. Hoping to escape detection, Sweeney deposits the corpse in the river, with Marilyn's tacit understanding. But when his one-time New York flame, Tina, turns up, he knows there will be no escaping his past. His life of crime began at 13, when he and his older cousin Eddie went to work for midlevel Italian Mafioso Jimmy the Nose—"Milton Berle, Dick Clark, George Burns with a rotten apple for a nose." With "wise guys...on the wane," he and Eddie sold themselves to Russian gangsters. The MacGuffin of the book is a 25-carat uncut diamond that a frightening Russian boss wants back. There are times when it's difficult to reconcile Cosmo's street-level origins with his cultural sophistication (as the narrator, he describes Marilyn as "a portrait by Daumier"). But Jones is such a terrific, stylish writer and sustains his comic edge with such seeming ease that it's easy to overlook such factors.
Jones (Montana for Kids: The Story of Our State, 2018, etc.) has written a smashing crime novel, adding to his perfectly pitched comic voice with nicely drawn characters and a strong sense of place.