Longevity doesn’t count for much in Stroby’s drama played out in the criminal underworld, where a good score and a reliable crew can finance a year or two of easy living. But the money eventually runs out, or somebody offers another job. Crissa Stone has moved comfortably through this nebulous society since her teens, her mentor-cum-lover, Wayne Boudreaux, currently doing time in Texas. Some of Crissa’s urgency comes from the need for more money to finance an early parole for Wayne.
Normally as cautious as she is well-prepared, Stone has rigorously followed the rules and kept under the radar, but worry over Wayne’s endurance has prompted her to take another job too soon for the usual safeguards she depends on. There’s a poker game in Miami ripe for a heist - easy in, easy out, a three-man crew sufficient to carry it off. While Stone has worked with Bobby Chance before, the third man on the team, Stimson, has a solid reputation, no cause for concern. Still, the best-laid plans cannot account for human behavior or the instincts of a moment. When Stimson fatally shoots one of the poker players, the others know their best plan is to split the take and go their separate ways.
One of the more fascinating aspects of this thriller is the precise organization that isolates contacts and go-betweens, a system of intermediaries who broker deals, take a percentage and facilitate the next opportunity that comes along. There are rules; Boudreaux has trained Crissa to respect her instincts and stick rigorously to procedures. But Crissa is tired, concerned about Wayne and saddened about relinquishing her young daughter to the care of a cousin, the only immediate resolution for pressing financial needs to partner with Stimson. With the murder, the whole job unravels, leading ultimately to a confrontation with Eddie the Saint, a vicious ex-con with his own agenda, a taste for torture and the greed that has turned him into a stone killer (no pun intended).
Stroby writes old school: no frills, all action, the gritty reality of life and death that characterizes this level of criminal enterprise. That there is a personal element never occurs to Crissa until Eddie the Saint’s relentless pursuit makes it clear that something was wrong about the job from the beginning. Ever pragmatic, Stone thinks on her feet, motivated to protect her life from a soulless thug unconcerned with the carnage he leaves in his wake. A job gone wrong becomes a hunt, contracts burned and the lives of friends forfeit to Eddie’s drive to recover money that exists only in his mind.
As direct as a bullet to the brain, Stroby writes clean and hard, ideals relegated to a different society. While there is a code of honor among thieves - a boon to Stone as she prepares for a bloody showdown - the one odd psychopath turns caution into chaos, unleashing a string of brutal murders that push pro Crissa Stone to the brink of her resources and her survival.