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Gangsters, crooked cops, boxers, and sexually perverse assassins make surprisingly boring companions, courtesy of former federal prosecutor Lysaght (Eye of the Beholder, 1995, etc.).

First, we have the Kensington Dining Council, a shadowy cabal of gangsters and industrialists who meet to plot evil—and profitable—deeds, willing to kill those who stand in the way. A Council project to sell black market sarin, Japanese nerve gas, goes wrong when a nosy old man, “Patsy” DeMarco, starts sniffing around the New Jersey warehouse where the sarin is stored. The Council dispatches operative Alicia Kent, a twisted, lascivious, and sadistic killer, to take him out. She manages to do the job but not as smoothly as should have: clues are left behind, suspicions aroused. DeMarco was a boxing trainer, and two of his most famous fighters, Meza and Tommy Boyle, are now determined to get to the bottom of things. And these two are no ordinary guys. Meza is one of the most feared and respected paid killers on the West Coast, and Tommy one of the only straight cops on the crooked force of Patterson, New Jersey. Also thrown into the mix is Stephanie Shane, a Naval Intelligence officer and daughter of a famous admiral sent to work with Magnus Purcell, Alicia’s onetime mentor on the Council—though now secretly turned government informant against it. Lysaght seems to love piling more and more characters into his jumbled story, which wouldn’t be a problem if most weren’t completely forgettable. With the exception of Alicia and her quiet sidekick Roberta, almost no one is able to stand out from all the clutter and noise. Alicia herself is a sick caricature; her tangled loves of homicide and tortuous sex traced back to her having been a preadolescent rape victim, someone even Joe Eszterhas would be embarrassed to call his own. The prose, when not pedestrian, is outrageously ripe (“. . . a backside that spread forever like the steppes of the Kazakh Uplands”).

Overblown material that gets lost in its own exploitative convolutions.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-765-30062-1
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2001