A RAGE IN PARADISE by Ralph Arnote


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 A first hardcover outing for Willy Hanson, a paperback hero who lives on a ketch as an ``atoning avenger.'' Visiting his old friend Cliff Blaylock in idyllic Stag Creek, New Jersey, Willy can't help noticing that Blaylock's saddened and distracted over the theft of a unique rarity he'd just purchased--a mint-condition 1793 penny inscribed ``AMERI''- -and over the shooting, the very same night the coin was stolen, of Willis McCord, the boy next door. In fact, Blaylock is much more troubled than Willy knows, since he shot Willis himself during a robbery in which Willis's accomplice and drug source, Heavy Laval, got away with a briefcase filled with $20,000 in bullion (whose value even a lug like Heavy can appreciate) and the AMERI penny (making his total haul, Heavy thinks, $20,000.01). Now, as Willy and his p.i. partner Coley Doctor are combing the streets to get a line on the coin, Blaylock is doing everything he can to keep them from finding Heavy. And just to keep the pot boiling, Heavy, realizing what a haul he's made, is planning in his elephantine way to blackmail his victim; Heavy's bossman, Florida druglord Bocco Lamas, has come to New York to supervise damage control (meaning, in Heavy's case, prompt extermination); and Red Irons, Bocco's middleman, is struggling to keep Bocco happy, and himself alive. It's an Elmore Leonard setup, but completely without Leonard's fizz and wit, because Arnote (Hong Kong, China, 1996) writes so flatly (Blaylock muses sensitively, ``I've killed poor Willis McCord and things will never be the same''; later, Willis's grieving mother, who turns out to be one hot mama, memorializes her son: ``The Blaylocks were very special people to young Willis''). Even so, the tale moves along at a snappy pace, and few readers will guess who'll join Willy in the small circle of survivors. Functional and depthless as an aluminum-sided split-level a long way down the road from swanky Stag Creek.

Pub Date: June 10th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-86198-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1997