"Forget about money. Pain's the only currency. And everybody pays their way."This decent standalone effort by author Wallace Stroby tracks parallel stories of two vastly different people on different sides of the law as their paths start to cross surrounding an officer-involved Florida roadside shooting of a young black man. Sara Cross is a small-town sheriff's deputy who is the first responder to the shooting. The officer involved happens to be her ex-boyfriend that she inexplicably still has the hots for, but soon she suspects that there is more to the shooting that meets the eye. Meanwhile, Morgan, an aging hitman from Jersey reluctantly comes into town hired to find out what happened to a shipment of money and guns that never made it to its destination.
This novel reads so much like a George Pelecanos novel, I wouldn't be surprised if it actually was dug out of his closet somewhere. It has so many of the same themes, same structure, and written with the same prose-style: an unadorned, direct, no-nonsense manner, like Ernest Hemingway meets Elmore Leonard. Even Morgan, the story's best character, reads like a Pelecanos hero, sort of like Derek Strange if he decided to break bad. Morgan, is efficient and ruthless, is tired of the life, but needs the money to deal with a rare intestinal cancer that's flared up in him. Listening to the old cassette tapes of the classic soul music that he loves is the only thing that eases the pain.
But my biggest problem is with the character of Sara. I was surprised by how incapable of a protagonist she was. She never seems to be able to take care of herself when trouble goes down, always needing to be rescued. But not only that! She was COMPLETELY inconsequential to the story. And it seems like Stroby went out of his way to make her immaterial. We follow her as she uncovers clues, but then the story is pushed forward because of the actions of other people, not because of anything she did. I realized at the end of the novel that if Sara was removed from the book altogether, the development of the plot would not change at all.
The book is entertaining enough while reading it, but I was left fairly unsatisfied when it was all said and done. But, I hear nothing but great things about Stroby's series novels, which I'm starting very soon. Hopefully they're better.