In this noirish, sleek debut, a homicide cop finds his life complicated by a sexy stranger in search of revenge.
When Detective Vince Bonelli falls for something—or someone—he falls hard. Celibate for 20 years after his first breakup, the philosopher/warrior (who had ambitions of being a priest) runs into trouble in line at the bakery one day: Gina Gallo, a sultry, mysterious chain smoker, jumps into his bed and his life. He is instantaneously smitten, though—ever the cop—he has to wonder: What would a knockout be doing with a potbellied mug like him? Gina, the archetypal femme fatale, plays it aloof—she destroys Vince at chess and then stays up at night, staring forlornly out the window, naked, smoking cigarettes. As it turns out, Gina is really Regan—the daughter of an informant who fell victim to the crime boss Vince is chasing. When she takes a shot at the gangster responsible for her mother’s death and Vince gets in the way, the doomed lovers are torn apart. Author Cherry (Christmas Cracker, 2012) jumps forward 10 years to find Vince has become a basketball-playing priest who drinks too much and can’t shake the memory of lost love. This is, in many ways, the most surprising and best section. In one wrenching scene, Vince wakes up after a bender (and near sexual indiscretion) to discover that he slept through a parishioner’s call for last rites. At the hospital, a nurse glances at him, “the smell of stale wine floating around him like an ungodly aura, and gave a disapproving frown”; the reader feels Vince’s embarrassment acutely. When Gina/Regan inevitably comes knocking, as well as the gangsters still looking for revenge, Vince tries to shake off the booze, and the novel hurtles toward its climax. By emphasizing Vince’s inner conflict and flaws, underwriting the sex and violence, and keeping the tone light, Cherry displays a talent for turning what may be a clichéd plot into character-driven fun. The stakes are low, but the author finds a healthy balance between the inner conflicts of the characters and their outer actions, fulfilling our expectations of the genre.
Mixing romance and revenge, Cherry blends a potent, readable cocktail likely to appeal to fans of classic noir.