Shoot the Woman First

shootthewomanfirstWritten by Wallace Stroby — The ex-journalist Wallace Stroby, who has become a hardboiled crime author, returns with his third book about Crissa Stone. His professional thief has already been the anti-heroine in Cold Shot to the Heart (2011) and Kings of Midnight (2012).

Crissa is in Detroit, part of a four-person team aiming to take down a local gang leader. The man has been moving his drugs money, upwards of $500,000 at a time, using a series of hand overs with only a three-man crew for security. The job appears easy enough and so it proves.

Back at the base to split the take things go south. Their inside man, a cousin of an occasional member of her string, pulls a double-cross from which Crissa is lucky to escape with her life. She is able to pull her friend Larry Black out of the crossfire, but not before he’s hit. He dies before the night is out, hiding with Crissa in an abandoned garage with their cut, as they evade their pursuers. Perhaps blaming herself for not spotting the ambush, or maybe because Crissa has had to abandon her own daughter, she decides to travel to Florida to give Larry’s share to his ex-wife and daughter.

Unbeknownst to Crissa, she may never be a saviour to Larry’s daughter as she hopes. Hot on her heals, chasing down clues and tying up loose ends, is Frank Burke. The ex-Detroit policeman is corrupt – rotten to the core. Brought in to recover the gangsters’ money, Burke has ideas of his own. Sick of working for a criminal he has no respect for, he sees the score as his own last chance, and he means to get the money for himself, and that means leaving no-one alive. Crissa may be a professional thief, a successful woman in a man’s world, but Burke represents a different and decidedly more deadly challenge.

Having Crissa make the decision to help her friend’s family means Stroby is walking a tightrope. Why should a hard-bitten professional thief, who knows every job has the potential to end with prison or death, risk her life to help a child she’s never met? But the author handles it deftly, making her decision understandable, and adding an extra level of emotion to his character, without ever risking her credibility as a thief. The venal Burke is another success, and the outcome of their battle of wits is a tense affair. Everything seems genuinely in doubt until the very end.

I can’t think of any negatives for this book. It is a top notch, hardboiled thriller, and a runaway success. That Stroby should dedicate it to the late, great Elmore Leonard is just a final classy touch. I read this book too late for it to make my Top five books of 2013, but it’s already a contender for next year’s list.

Minotaur Books
Print
£14.38

CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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