In this debut crime novel, an accountant stages a robbery to pay off a murderous creditor.
Nosebleed-prone accountant Sterling Charles Russell III has just gotten divorced, and he’s having trouble making ends meet now that so much of his paycheck is going toward alimony. This is before he gets a call from his degenerate gambler father, JR, who owes $40,000 to a dangerous loan shark named Ned the Knees. Ned is the primary suspect in the murder of Sterling’s mother a year before—the first victim of JR’s compulsive gambling. Now Sterling has 28 days to come up with the money or his father will join his mother in the afterlife. A visit to a jeweler client in order to pawn a necklace gives Sterling an idea: “Chapman opened the safe door; diamonds, rings, gold and a stack of cash. Receipts on his desk for tens of thousands of dollars from jewelry brokers. Sterling did his books. He never reported any of these commissions. He was loaded.” The accountant puts a devious one-man plan in place that uses his accounting skills as cover for a heist. Unfortunately, Sterling may have left a single drop of blood from his nose at the scene of the crime. And when the police show up at his apartment the next morning, they aren’t just interested in finding the culprit in the jewelry store robbery, but in a murder that took place not long afterward. Cutts’ narrative is fast-paced and high-stakes, pulling readers through complication after complication. Unfortunately, his choppy prose often gets in the way, robbing the novel of some of it potential immersiveness: “The one on the left was a huge man, about 40; receding hair with a ponytail; two or three days of beard growth; arms the size of Sterling’s leg with too many tattoos to count. He was filthy, smelled and had terrible breath! His only words were, ‘you go there,’ pointing to the top bunk on the other side.” Sterling is a sympathetic figure, but the story is so rushed that there is little time for complex characterization or even suspense. It’s a quick read that will keep the audience engaged, but it could have been much more.
A swift but messy heist tale.