COLD SHOT TO THE HEART. By Wallace Stroby. Minotaur. 304 pages. $24.99.
In his fourth stand-alone book, Wallace Stroby shows why the heist novel -- a noirsh thriller in which a theft is at the plot's center -- is gaining a resurgence.
Like the best heist novels, "Cold Shot to the Heart" moves at a break-neck speed as clever crooks sidle through a maze of legalities, double-crossing business associates and vengeful criminals. Like a true heist, "Cold Shot to the Heart" is heavy on plot but revolves around characters who, despite their crooked tendencies, evoke empathy. In this heist, a vast difference exists between a crook and a criminal.
The crook with the heart of gold is Crissa Stone, a savvy thief who carefully plans her jobs and is even more cautious about the people with whom she works. A network of contacts lines up the meticulous robberies in which violence is avoided. But -- as what happens in every good heist novel -- the best laid plans go awry. Crissa and her associates travel to Fort Lauderdale to rob a high-stakes poker game.
The hold-up is going fine until one of Crissa's accomplices shoots the son-in-law of a New Jersey mobster. Now Crissa and each of the people who works for her are the target of hit man Eddie Santiago, an unrepentant ex-con who demands a high salary. Crissa maneuvers around double-crosses when she realizes she and her gang were set up by the mobster orchestrating his son-in-law's murder.
New Jersey-based Stroby effortlessly moves the story from his home state to South Florida, capturing the nuances of each area. Stroby keeps "Cold Shot to the Heart" tightly focused on the heist, adding to the exciting suspense with myriad surprises. The legendary code of honor among thieves gets a reality check: "If one stole from the other, it would get settled sooner or later. Their world was too small."
Stroby's sturdy plot is augmented by the author's intriguing look at how money corrupts and how even a crook can have a moral compass.
Fans of Elmore Leonard and George V. Higgins' "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" will find much to like in Stroby's hard-edged "Cold Shot to the Heart."