by Wallace Stroby
4 out of 5 bottles of wine.
It’s gotta be hard for anyone writing the main character as a professional thief in crime fiction because the comparisons to Richard Stark’s Parker are going to be unavoidable and most are going to fall short of that very high bar. However, with this fourth book in the series it’s past time where Wallace Stroby’s Crissa Stone is judged on her own merits, and she easily passes that test.
Crissa is contacted by a rich man named Cota who needs a thief. He had gotten his hands on valuable statues illegally taken from the Middle East during America’s recent military actions, but he got found out and is being forced to return them. With a buyer ready to fork over big money for the statues, Cota wants her to steal them as they are being transported so that he can double dip by selling them and claiming the insurance money while also being absolved of the blame of them not being returned. Hey, rich people didn’t get rich by not being greedy.
Cota wants Crissa to work with his guy Hicks, a former soldier turned gun for hire. Things begin smoothly enough as Crissa comes up with a plan, and she and Hicks recruit a team to pull it off. If you think that things don’t go off the rails at some point then I’m guessing that you’re unfamiliar with how these types of stories work.
All the tropes of these kind of novels are in play with the thief just trying to do the job but facing betrayals and complications. From the standpoint of a heist novel it’s a solid example of the genre, but it’s the character of Crissa that makes it more than that.
She continues to be the pragmatic and competent professional who wants to do the job without anyone getting hurt, but a life outside the normal boundaries of society continues to take a toll on her emotionally. The man she loves is in prison, her daughter is being raised by a relative, and the number of people she can trust shrinks with every book. The question of whether she’s really doing it for the money or the thrill are also raised in this one. All of these factors make Crissa far more sympathetic and interesting than the anti-hero characters you generally get in these type of books.
As usual in this series Stroby has written a top notch crime novel without an ounce of fat in it that still finds time to develop its characters in the midst of its fast paced action.
Also posted on Goodreads.