Joe Kurtz emerges from Attica, after doing his 11 years for killing the man who killed his partner/lover Samantha Fielding, as stoic and focused as he went in. True, he’ll never hold a private eye’s license again. But that setback doesn’t prevent him from telling Arlene Demarco, his former secretary, to quit her job, find a new office, and start looking around for computers and phone equipment. Even before he’s settled into his new storefront, the windowless basement beneath an X-rated video place, Kurtz has already landed a job investigating the disappearance of Buell Richardson, missing accountant to Buffalo’s once-powerful Farino crime family—except that isn’t exactly what the job really involves. Kurtz’s actual terms of employment will take him into the bed of wheelchair-bound Don Byron Farino’s ambitious daughter Sophia, up against a Farino bodyguard who’s perhaps a tad too sensitive about the harmless names he’s called, and onto a collision course with nine different killers—ex-Crip Malcolm Kibunte, his wild-eyed sidekick Cutter, his associate Doo-Rap, Kurtz’s mortal enemy Manny Levine, a professional assassin called the Dane, and the four Alabama Beagle Boys—who’d love nothing better than to empty their weapons into him, and get repeated chances to try. Old hands at this genre will know better than to form foolishly sentimental attachments to any of them.
Genre-hopping Simmons, who made his bones in SF before switching to thrillers like The Crook Factory (1999) and Darwin’s Blade (2000), handles the carnage here as confidently as if he’d teethed on a .45.