It is hard to believe that The Devil's Redhead is David Corbett's debut novel. What is believable is the fact that the author spent fifteen years working as a private investigator. His knowledge and experience flood the pages, making the fast-paced thriller believable and full of intense scenes.
The Devil's Redhead is a tangled and twisted love story, really. Abentangelo (Abb-Tan-Jel-O) runs a respectable crew of pot-smuggling crooks who don't believe in using guns, or in getting overly violent.
The story starts in 1990 when our protagonist meets the irresistible Las Vegas blackjack dealer Lachelle (Shel, for short). The rite for love-at-first-sight is invoked, and it's not hard to see why. The two hit it off immediately and seem as though they've been together a lifetime after their first night together.
A well-planned drug ring is in play, the last big deal before Abentangelo calls it quits and becomes an honest civilian. Nothing is ever that easy. The DEA is on to the trade. A net is dropped and Abentangelo voluntarily takes the brunt of the fall for his crew. Though Shel is sentenced to three years in prison, Abantangelo is locked away for a decade.
While locked up, he spends his time thinking about the day he'll go free and be reunited with the woman of his dreams. A few years before his release, her frequent letters stop all together. Figuring she has moved on with her life, he is ready to forget about her. Then, just before his release, one last letter arrives. No return address. The tone of Shel's letter indicates she is trapped in something she wants to be free of.
Once free, Abentangelo violates his probation to find her. What he finds is that she is shacked up with Frank Maas, a drug-addicted lowlife acquitted of the charges that he murdered his wife and child. His ties to the mob and the Mexican criminals leaves both him and Shel hanging by thin threads of survival dependent on Frank not messing up anymore.
After a brief reunion between the ex-cons, Frank screws up and Shel becomes the victim. Locked away and tortured by ghouls working for the Mexicans, she hopes Abentangelo has enough sense to get away. But Abentangelo and journalist tabloid journalist Waxmen set out to uncover an illegal conspiracy in an attempt to save Shel's life — that is, if she is even still alive.
David Corbett has written a hard-boiled noir thriller that is sure to become a classic. The plot is tight and professionally crafted, with a cast of characters vividly drawn and full of life. The witty dialogue, clever clues and poetic prose should make The Devil's Redhead appealing to a wide variety of fiction lovers. I look forward to Done For A Dime, Corbett's second novel.