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Daley (Year of the Dragon, To Kill a Cop, Prince of the City) takes his police-procedural savvy on a trip to a foreign place-and-time--to 1954 Nice, where a local cop doggedly pursues the US-expatriate mastermind of the ""heist of the century."" The mastermind is danger-loving WW II hero Lambert, a would-be playwright and sometime cigarette-smuggler who teams up with the Marseille ""Milieu"" to plan an assault on the Banque de Nice: in the novel's riveting opening chapter, Lambert and a dozen cronies (some Milieu mobsters, some free-lancers) ransack the bank's safe-deposit boxes, escape via sewer, kill an unlucky bum who sees them. . . and go their separate ways with divided-up loot. Then, while Lambert takes his quiet, beautiful French wife Jacqueline off for a sudden vacation (he tells her that he has sold his play to B'way), moody Commissaire Robert Bellarmine of the local SûretÉ branch starts investigating the bank-robbery. Bellarmine is pressured from all sides: the press; the government; and influential individuals (like the Mayor), whose deposit-boxes held embarrassing papers as well as cash or jewelry. The Nice/Marseille sleuthing turns up several of the dumber robbers--but little hard evidence, with no sign of ""The Brain"" who planned it all. (The Milieu manages to silence one would-be informer in a grisly blowtorch vignette.) Meanwhile, the restless Lambert once again virtually abandons wife Jacqueline, now investing his loot in a gun-smuggling scheme, but also planning some blackmail just in case: among the deposit-box spoils were pornographic photos featuring a US Congressman. And lonely cop Bellarmine, deserted by his showgirl lover, is attracted to sad shopowner Jacqueline, not knowing that she's married--until Lambert is at last tracked down and arrested. So, in the solid but predictable second half: decent Jacqueline is caught between her love for Bellarmine and her loyalty to a husband-in-trouble; Lambert uses those blackmail photos to get himself broken out of custody by the CIA; and the ruthless Milieu steps in to arrange some ironic killing. . . which frees Jacqueline for a happy fadeout. No surprises along the way--and, with Lambert an unendearing mastermind, there's minimal excitement about his fate. But since Daley handles all the details with gritty, deglamorized conviction--bank-procedures, interrogations, prostitute/gangster life--the unremarkable, rather slow-moving plot here is steadily, atmospherically engrossing.

Pub Date: Aug. 5th, 1983
Publisher: Simon & Schuster