Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Heist -- Michael A. Black

I’m no expert on caper novels, but I know a good story when I read one. Michael A. Black’s THE HEIST definitely falls into that category. Set in 1992, it finds a pair of ex-Marine, Desert Storm veterans hatching a plan to rob a safe deposit box belonging to the number two man in the Chicago mob. They expect to find millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains, but instead they find something even more valuable: a videotape implicating the Outfit’s boss in a couple of murders. Naturally, once word of this gets out, everybody wants the tape, including assorted mobsters, hitmen, government lawyers, federal agents, and cops. The two protagonists, of course, find themselves in the middle of this dangerous hunt, and naturally, things go from bad to worse.

This is a large-cast book with a lot of stuff going on all the time, but Black handles this juggling act with consummate skill, never letting the pace slow down for very long. Great characters, great action scenes, and a poignant but satisfying ending make this a fine crime novel. This is a stand-alone, but Mike Black is also the author of a series of novels featuring Chicago PI Ron Shade. I haven’t read any of these, but I intend to. A long-time pulp fan as well, he’s written a Doc Savage-like pastiche called MELODY OF VENGEANCE that I’ll be reading soon.

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