Graft in the home-heating-oil business leads to multiple murders in this blood-and-guts tale by Spinosa, the pseudonym of crime writer Reed Farrel Coleman.
Joe Serpe used to be an undercover narcotics cop in New York City. He also used to be married. But loyal Joe covered for his corrupt cokehead partner for too long, and was bounced off the force; then his wife left him and moved to Florida with their son. Joe’s fireman brother Vinny took him in; his death on 9/11 was the last straw. For three years, he has been living on Long Island, alone and depressed, delivering oil to homes, having one-night stands. Three things bring him out of his depression. A coworker, a decent, retarded kid called Cain, is murdered; Joe finds him in an oil tank. Then a chance encounter with another ex-cop, Bob Healy, the guy who forced him into retirement, takes an unlikely turn; the two team up to investigate Cain’s murder. And Joe meets Marla Stein, the psychologist at Cain’s group home, and it’s love at first sight. The story zigs and zags as Spinosa distracts the ex-cops with red herrings. There’s Toussant, an unsavory Haitian, a health aide at the group home and Cain’s tormentor; he’ll wind up dead himself. A third murder, of an illegal from El Salvador, has the ex-cops checking out day laborers on the island and a bunch of white racists harassing them; this leads to a shootout in the woods. All this action should be more exciting than it is; too often it feels stale and contrived. The winding trail will lead past two dead hookers to Russian mobsters pumping black-market oil. To bring on the climax, Spinosa has Joe foolishly confront them. The final bloodbath is the stuff of troubled-adolescent fantasies, involving a chainsaw and a severed head.
An experienced writer, just going through the motions.