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ROAD DOGS by Elmore Leonard


by Elmore Leonard

Pub Date: May 12th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-173314-7
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Leonard throws together three battle-hardened survivors from his earlier capers, with predictably unpredictable results.

Jack Foley (Out of Sight, 1996) robbed numerous banks before an amateurish mistake and a run-in with Bob Isom Gibbs, aka Maximum Bob, got him sent to prison for a 30-year stretch. There he meets Cundo Rey (LaBrava, 1983), the four-time killer from Cuba whose debt to society is much shorter. The two felons bond over the manifest injustice of Jack’s disproportionate sentence, and soon Cundo’s hooked Jack up with his smart-chick lawyer Megan Norris, who gets Jack’s sentence knocked down to 30 months less time served. As a result, he gets to go home before Cundo, and the home he goes to is one of the two houses psychic Dawn Navarro (Riding the Rap, 1995) keeps for Cundo. Despite his FBI nemesis Lou Adams’s certainty that Jack will rob another bank within a month, Jack and Cundo have their sights set higher than one more $5,000 score. They plan to insinuate Jack into Dawn’s business, beginning with her high-value deal to free movie star Danialle Karmanos from the oppressive ghost of her late movie-producer husband. Even before Jack’s met and charmed the susceptible Danny, he’s already insinuated himself between Dawn’s sheets, establishing himself as more than her business partner just in time to welcome Cundo back home. It’s clear from the get-go that the real action here won’t be the scam of Danny Karmanos but the drolly straight-faced efforts of the three co-conspirators to increase their share of the pot by reducing their numbers. Yet although the double-crosses are the stuff of the master’s best work, they come across as telegraphic and obligatory, as if the tale were a sketch for a more full-blooded novel.

What works best are the matchless incidental pleasures Leonard’s world always provides, from lightning-fast descriptions to bull’s-eye dialogue, as when Cundo complains about Dawn’s nagging: “Eight years inside I dream about her. I come out, she acts like she’s my wife.”