Despite constant attempts by other gun-toting worthies to upstage it, Vinnie McCloskey-Schmidt’s head is indeed the centerpiece of this grisly criminal farce.
Chronic Long Island loser Johnnie LoDuco, two weeks out of stir, looks like he’s set to go back in when his car’s battery dies and he’s caught boosting a replacement vehicle. Before his court date rolls around, Johnnie runs into Bug Rankin, the public defender who once tried unsuccessfully to get him acquitted on obscenity charges, and two business associates who’ve just robbed a deli. When the cops pounce, they grab Johnnie along with the perps, who naturally finger him as the ringleader. Facing serious time, Johnnie’s delighted but suspicious when he’s bailed out, apparently by his old school buddy Vinnie, whose current partnership with disgraced Dr. Jennifer Smeals involves fleecing customers of a few measly cents on every transaction and setting up a corporation in Paraguay where Johnnie can “administrate” the proceeds. In a rare moment of insight, Johnnie reflects that “we made a great team, except for me.” Vinnie’s plan runs into a snag, literally, when Johnnie, idly fishing off the end of a pier, hooks his buddy’s severed head. And that’s all in the first 60 pages. Johnnie will soon be pursued by mobsters demanding their money (what money?), king-sized trigger-men, cops on the take and the Headhunter, a recovering serial killer who lives with his mom. Rookie novelist Lecard keeps the twists and turns coming, but since every lowlife who swims into view seems equally greedy, deceptive and demented, you may not care when Johnnie caroms from one to the next.
The Rube Goldberg plot is rickety but relentless, and although most of the cast is excruciatingly familiar, it’s hard to resist dim, sweet Johnnie, especially when he seems about to find true love.