SHADY CROSS by James Hankins


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A low-level crook finds himself in the middle of a kidnapping plot and must choose whether to save a child or his own neck.

Stokes isn’t the kind of man you’d want to have a beer with; in fact, he’d probably steal your wallet at the end of the night. Hankins (Jack of Spades, 2013, etc.) goes to great lengths to paint the small-town criminal as some kind of neonoir antihero: He’s gruff, practically monosyllabic, and his intentions are definitely not good. But instead of being endearingly villainous—or even haplessly troubled—Stokes is merely a caricature of a “bad guy.” After fleecing an out-of-towner for a round of drinks and all the cash in his wallet following a long night at the bar, Stokes takes a ride on his one prize possession, an expensive motorcycle, and inadvertently causes a wreck. The other driver—a man Stokes later identifies as Paul Jenkins—is killed. In the car, Stokes finds a backpack full of cash—$350,000 to be precise—and a cellphone. Since he owes one of the local loan sharks—the small Indiana town inexplicably has two—$100,000, Stokes plans to pay off his debt and take off. Then the phone rings, and he realizes the money is ransom for Paul’s 6-year-old daughter, Amanda. Trouble is, the kidnappers want the full amount. Stokes races around town against the clock to find another hundred grand, stumbling through a series of shockingly coincidental events.

Even with a child in jeopardy, the tension here is entirely manufactured, and any sense of urgency is deflated early on when Hankins fails to render Stokes beyond tired stereotypes.

Pub Date: Feb. 24th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4778-2098-8
Page count: 334pp
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2015


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