CONS by Timothy Watts


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 Smooth-running, finely tuned first crime novel--by a professional car mechanic. Watts doesn't tinker much with his Elmore Leonard/James Cain models. His laid-back prose is straight Leonard (``Cully had a feeling in his gut. Cold. The thing was, it was familiar, it'd been there before''), and his opening gambit is nearly a Cain knockoff: Frank ``Cully'' Cullen, just freed from Florida prison (armed robbery), is hired by wealthy middle-aged farmer Herb Dorrance to chauffeur Herb's sexy young wife, Michelle. A triangle like that spells ``noir,'' of course, and, soon enough, gold-digging Michelle--fed up with Herb's sexual sadism and tired of acting under the direction of brutal ex-husband Benny Marsh, a former con- -is seducing Cully to have him steal a fortune in diamonds that Herb has squirreled away in a local bank: a fortune that she and Benny will then steal from Cully. That's the standard setup here, but Watts takes it through several unexpected spins, starting with Cully's falling in love not with Michelle but with her equally gorgeous sister, Kristin, a slightly kooky pot-smoking restaurateur. A second twist ensues when Kristin joins forces with Cully to steal the gems--only it turns out, after an extraordinarily tense holdup, that the diamonds aren't at the bank but in a drawer in Herb's desk, behind which Herb waits for Benny or Cully, gun at the ready--leading to a downright nasty confrontation/climax. An impressive debut. Despite the heavy influences, it's clear that Watts has talent to spare--and if he can find his own writing road, he could drive right into the winner's circle.

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 1993
ISBN: 0-939149-70-2
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Soho
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1992


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