A fast and furious debut thriller notable for a vintage collection of really rotten bad guys.
Moss, for instance, is a King Kong of a man (without the big ape’s subtleties) who rapes as zestfully as he kills. Stick earned his nickname on the day he stuck his knife into a rival’s eyes: “Pop. Out comes one. Pop. Out comes the other.” They’re just two of the monsters who kill for money and pleasure and who are coming after Smoke Dugan. Formerly of their number, Smoke is now a renegade. Lame at birth, he’d never been a hard guy’s hard guy; still, he was of enormous value to the kind of businessman who preferred throat-cutting to price-cutting as a way of coping with competition. For racketeering magnates such as Big Vito, Smoke designed smart little bombs that took out targets without much collateral mess. One such target, however, happened to have $2.5 million of Big Vito’s cash in his safe, a stash with which Smoke ill-advisedly decided to abscond. It’s this move that explains why Denny Cruz, he of the “murderer’s eyes,” and a giggly band of sadistic sociopaths, have tracked Smoke to his bolt hole in Portland, Ore. They want the immediate return of Big Vito’s money. To get it, they’re prepared to maim, mutilate and murder. So Smoke and his sexy girl friend Lola, out-gunned and seemingly cornered, are in effect a dead couple walking. Except that where there’s Smoke there’s enough fire to generate shifting alliances and surprise endings.
Characters to care about, even the no-goods. Readers who can tolerate the bloodbaths may be bearing early witness to the arrival of a major talent. Quinlan’s next should tell.