Densely stylish, superdramatic waterfront suspense from Stroud (Deadly Force, 1996).
These smartly oiled pages reek of crime’s auto-body shop. Though hit with three or four main storylines, the reader surrenders to Stroud’s steel trap of detail. Each character has a richly sketched background or hard charcoal outline. Even the walk-ons have a flat, pebble-eyed exactness. And if the gritty dialogue sometimes seems a tad intense, it’s leavened by classic hard-boiled humor. (“She crossed the marble floor, heading for the main desk. Jimmy Rock watched her go, admiring the way she handled gravity.”) The tale turns on an assets-forfeiture scam set in play by a publicity-rocket assistant district attorney. Jack Vermillion owns Black Water Transit, a $200M shipping business. He’s just beaten the Teamsters by fashioning his own insurance and pension plan for his crews, negotiated through a private investment bank. An ingeniously devised character, Earl V. Pike—retired Army colonel, former sniper, and outstandingly brilliant rascal—comes to Jack with an offer of $250,000 if Jack will ship to Mexico a sealed container holding a 200-year-old collection of American firearms, a Pike family heirloom. It’s worth millions. But shipping guns to Mexico is illegal. Jack agrees, then goes to racket-busting A.D.A. Valeriana Greco to set up a sting on Pike. Why? Because Jack wants Greco to help his son Danny, in Lompoc Prison, get a berth less dangerous than the one he’s in. As it happens, the NYPD is after Pike for an entirely different matter, a double murder, and when the heirlooms arrive in Brooklyn, the NYPD and the ATF make simultaneous raids, unknowingly thinking each other the enemy, while sniper Pike himself starts taking out both teams. And little does Jack know, he’s the patsy and stands to lose Black Water Transit.
In a field overrun with snapping jaws, this bites through bone.