ODESSA BEACH by Bob Leuci

ODESSA BEACH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A mildly entertaining police procedural about a Russian ‚migr‚ who runs afoul of the Mob; from the author of Doyle's Disciples (1984). Niki Zaracoff is a charming and basically good-natured young con man making a fine living on the black market in Moscow when he suddenly learns that the police will soon be closing in. With the help of an influential friend, he and his wife escape to New York City and settle down in Brighton Beach (known locally as Odessa Beach because of the Russian community there). Niki opens a nightclub called Moscow Nights, borrowing the money to finance it from Marty Musca, an underboss in the powerful Malatesta crime family--but when the place flourishes, Niki balks at paying the usurious interest on the loan. Instead, he goes over Musca's head to Paul Malatesta, the scion of the family, giving him information (which Niki has gleaned from a friend in Rome) about a joint US-Italian probe of the Con Nostra. Malatesta erases the debt, Musca is predictably enraged, and soon there's a nice little war going on between two different Mob families and Niki's band of ‚migr‚s in Brighton Beach. So far, interesting and entertaining, especially the scenes dealing with Niki's growing sadness and toughness when he realizes he will have to fight for his life to live in America. But then, the focus shifts to New York City Detective Alexander Simon, a competent but bland cop working alongside a special FBI task force. Without Niki's engaging presence, the story rapidly becomes run of the mill. Leuci (an ex-cop himself who was the protagonist of Robert Daly's non-fiction Prince of the City) fills in scene after scene with inside information which simply isn't very inside anymore--the day-to-day workings of the Mafia, the adversarial relationship between the cops and the Feds. By the time Simon traps Niki into turning informer, momentum is lost, and the ending (Niki is dreaming of leading a peaceful life as a Mob assassin closes in) is maudlin and sentimentalized.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1985
ISBN: 155921242X
Publisher: Freundlich--dist. by Scribners