By Peter Leonard
After a successful career as an ad man, Peter Leonard started a second career as a crime novelist, finally getting into the family business; his father was Elmore Leonard, among the best the genre has yet seen. Happy to say the Leonard pedigree shines through (though measuring up to the father is quite a daunting challenge) in the following ways: quirky characters, generally sharp dialogue, and twisty, high energy plotting from start to finish. True, some things will strike you as improbable. Then, there’s hardly the crime novel you couldn’t pick apart if you set that as your goal. Here, best to sit back and enjoy the thrill ride.
Jack McCann, a stockbroker with few scruples, allows himself to be suckered into an affair with a young woman. Soon, once ensnared, she reveals she’s burdened with an enormous debt, and a mob loan shark holds the note. Gallant Jack agrees to pay it off for her. He raises the cash by selling out one of his rich elderly clients to the tune of $750,000. On the morning of September 11, 2001, he’s awaiting in his World Trade Center office for his world to come crashing down. And then it literally does. Miraculously, Jack manages to escape from the Towers before they collapse. It doesn’t take him long to understand he escaped with more than his life; he had a new future in front of him, assuming the world would consider him dead.
Come on, now, mob loan sharks are like cynical cops: they’ve seen it all and don’t take anything at face value. Soon Jack finds himself dodging two collectors. They are cowboy smart Duane and punch drunk ex-boxer Ruben, a sort of Muff and Jeff pairing. They can be funny but also can be deadly.
Stir into the mix Jack’s wife Diane. At first, she believes Jack has perished, holding a funeral and everything. That is, until Duane appears, posing as a grief counselor, soon followed by principles of Jack’s brokerage, who visit Diane in hopes of copping his insurance death benefit with which to make their old client whole again. Diane, daughter of an ex cop, proves to be hard-edged and determined to learn the truth about her husband.
From here on, the story transforms from a cat and mouse tale to a mad chase to find Jack,while Jack uses all his wiles to stay hidden, with the action moving from New York and Connecticut to Florida, where the whole affair comes to a rollicking, though a bit implausible, conclusion.
If you’re in the mood for a fast-paced page turner, this novel will satisfy you, as long as you’re willing to suspend your disbelief. w/c