Montecino, author of the superior police thriller The Crosskiller (1988), scores again with the story of a New Orleans musician who crosses the local mob and has to hide forever. Sal D'Amore was almost famous. He was handsome and he had real musical talent. But he didn't get the breaks, and in his 30s his life has come down to lounge singing, sleeping with rich older women, and playing the ponies. The ponies are nearly the death of him. Sal, who works on the side for a bookie, puts client money on his own sure thing. But the race is fixed, the sure thing is not, and all of a sudden Sal owes the Venezia family mob about $200,000. Plus interest. Sadistic, psychotic Nicky Venezia gets the assignment to squeeze either the money or the life out of Sal, who barely makes it out of New Orleans alive. Fleeing from city to city a step ahead of the assassins, Sal breathes what should be his last breath when he is garrotted in Waukegan, Illinois. The garroter has a heart attack, however, and, the way Sal sees it, Sal is reborn. He swears off gambling and rich women, renames himself Marco Toledano, takes a job playing the piano on an oceangoing freighter, begins writing music again, and meets 16-year-old Isabel Gemelli, a gorgeous filthy-rich Brazilian who sings like Billie Holiday and takes Sal's songs to the top of the charts--where he once again comes to the attention of that relentless New Orleans mob. Sal's adventures are outlandish, violent, and funny, and they are told with great style. Isabel's story could have been a book on its own. Unique here is the revelation of Sal as a dope who wises up in the middle of his life. Outstanding.