Born Jimmy Mangino, he’s known these days, some 35 years later, as Jimmy Bench-Press, marking the time he lifted 402 pounds while marking time in the slammer. Now that he’s released, Jimmy seeks suitable employment—mostly from the Vignieris, a New York City crime family frequently in need of no-nonsense persuaders like Jimmy. On being sent to collect a debt from a young woman foolishly inclined toward welshing, he offers her his patented facial in hopes of changing her mind. What’s a facial? “I knocked her teeth out,” he explains. Jimmy scares virtually everyone in his Soprano-esque universe—everyone but Detectives DeNafria and Pavlik, who detest him, regard him as the very embodiment of why they chose to be cops, and will not sleep until they succeed in locking him away again. But in addition to being brawny and beastly, Jimmy’s also brainy in the ways of street thugs. He’s immensely savvy about surveillance, about hidden wires, covert cameras, and what it takes to keep even skilled cops at bay. Moreover, DeNafria and Pavlik have to be circumspect, since both are saddled with checkered pasts. So while they stalk Jimmy, hoping for a misstep, others watch them for much the same reason.
Stella’s debut (Eddie’s World, 2001) was dark and violent, but this ups the ante to rampant brutality. Still, the story of the two troubled cops—essentially honorable men in a society where principle has become excess baggage—is compelling. Almost redeeming.