Can't an innocent ex-con catch a break?
Fresh out of a Florida penitentiary for killing his mother-in-law, Joe Tree makes a beeline for the Lobster Tank, his friend Mack Dias' bar. Not only does Joe need a sympathetic ear, Mack also has been holding a cache of gold that Joe intends to use to get back on his feet. But at the bar, Jimmy Spanola, who owns a neighboring restaurant, breaks the bad news that Mack killed himself over a year ago. And of course there's no sign of the gold. Mack left behind a widow named Maxine, who wasn't yet in the picture when Joe went to prison. Once hot-tempered cop Gary Bigelow gets wind that Joe is back on the street, he's anxious to put him back in the pen pronto. Bigelow appeals to Detective Eric Wetzgar to put the squeeze on Joe. Wetzgar blows him off with a condescension that enrages Bigelow. So while Joe is following a lead on his missing gold, Bigelow is putting three bullets in Wetzgar's head. He plans to frame Joe for the murder and take over Wetzgar's lucrative blackmailing racket. Luckily, Joe finds a strong ally (and love interest) in attorney Lita Cordona, a master at trading wisecracks with her secretary, Erica. Can this trio uncover Bigelow's maniacal plot before Joe gets sent back to prison for murder?
Dutton's debut packs so many minor characters into his opening chapters that it's hard to connect to the hero, but her storytelling has grit and the sleuthing trio has nice chemistry.