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by Stephen Romano

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4516-6864-3
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Unhinged ex-soldier and professional thief Elroy Coffin is spared more time in a Texas maximum security prison when a high-powered mystery woman gets him outon the condition he'll use his genius at computer hacking to break into an impossible-to-crack security grid. The lure: his wife, Toni, who Elroy thought was dead.

The man behind the plot is the superwealthy and supersadistic David Hartman (not the former TV personality!), who cut off the fingers of Elroy's criminal father, tortured and killed Elroy's mentor and is in possession of Toni. Elroy, who already has hardware in his head from a shooting that left him with an impaired memoryhe can't recall what Toni looks likegets shot again, battered, stabbed, slashed and injected with nasty drugs in his efforts to get to Hartman.Reflecting Romano's background in horror and graphic fiction, this first novel is written in the key of excess. But for all the violence and torture, the book is mostly taken up with posturing: Elroy obsessing over getting even with Hartman. Basic scenes are repeated over and over, promising characters are summarily dismissed, and when the big climax we're being set up for arrives, it's a letdown.

Elroy's dual identity as a tough guy and a "wirehead" gives the book one of its most distinctive elements, but in the end, Romano sells the computing elements short.