PROTECTION by Jack Kelly


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Another--but more muscular--crime thriller from the author of Apalachin (1987): here, a lean and hungry former Mafia hit-man bucks dangerously against the restraints of the Witness Protection Program. When Kelly's antihero, hard-living Gotham hit-man Sal Veronica, is betrayed by his mob boss, Sal rats in court and reincarnates under federal protection as Sal Vincent, retired Army officer. But try as he might, Sal just can't keep a low profile in his new, suburban community. Despite rooting into local social life--a raucous costume party that Sal throws occupies the novel's center--he flashes back with pride and blood-lust to his tourderous past. When money runs short for the old-age housing development he's building with his new business partner, next-door neighbor Ted Reed, Sal turns to a local hood for cash; and despite his love for wife Gina and son Mario, he wanders into the beds of several local wives. ""Life is a gift,"" he tells one future bedmate. ""You don't ask to be born, how can you gripe at how it turns out, how long it lasts'?"" But Sal skirts disaster when he takes neighbor Ted on a celebratory whirlwind weekend to Vegas; there, a former associate recognizes Sal, who, with confused Ted in tow, escapes by a hair--but not for long. Sal's philandering leads a sleazy p.i. hired by a cuckolded husband to Sars real identity, and a phone call brings on the mob--who nearly gun down Ted by mistake. Rather than desert him, though, Ted backs up Sal as the former mobster takes on two psycho killers in a long, bloody; and finally tragic showdown. Deep-souled characters, raw-edged dialogue, and an revolving evocation of underworld denizens crawling out to ravage middle-class America--all make for an above-average crime entry, although without the elevating irony and artistry of a Leonard, Hiaasen, or Koenig.

Pub Date: Aug. 31st, 1989
Publisher: Dutton