An engaging thriller debut finds an ex-con, an FBI agent, and some Miami cops going after a satchel stuffed with the stuff that dreams are made of.
Newcomer Born clearly writes about what he knows, bringing to his tale 17 years of experience in law enforcement, including time with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the agency at the center of this complicated case. His protagonist, state cop Bill Tasker, is yet another man with a clouded past: a divorced father who was transferred to Miami because of a cop killing that appeared to be his doing, but really wasn’t. Tasker, who can ill afford more trouble, soon finds himself a suspect in an embezzlement scheme. Cole Hodges, who really is an ex-con, has been skimming donations to Miami’s Committee for Community Relief to the tune of $1.5 million. Before Hodges can make off with the money, tubby, foul-mouthed FBI agent Tom Dooley beats him to it. To frame Tasker, who’s on the case, Dooley plants some of the loot in the officer’s outdoor grill, and now Tasker’s off the case. Before Dooley skips home free, however, he must reckon with officer Rick Bema, who’s wise to Dooley’s intentions. In a chilling, cop-goes-crooked scene, Bema goes for a cut of the money. The action turns into a lightweight version of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre as Hodges, Dooley, and others—all of them colorful enough to bump the narrative out of the “been there/read that” category—double-cross each other and outwit the reader all the way to a final shoot-out that’s capped with a delightfully cynical twist.
Born enters a crowded field with a tricky, well-paced plot and some sharply drawn characters. His style, though, is rather too straightforward: fresher detail and a more distinctive voice would jump his work to the head of the line.