In Crissa Stone, Stroby has created a character with legs, a professional thief trained by old-school cons who respect the parameters of the game: don’t take unnecessary chances, go over the details until all problems are resolved, and always have a getaway plan. Loyalty is a given. Entering into a job requires a committed team, hopefully with a history together and experience with the potential pitfalls. Feeling the loss of her mentor/lover, Wayne, the man who gave Crissa a new lease on life and a dependable partnership in every way, Stone agrees to a job that has every appearance of being successful.
Waiting out Wayne’s long bid in a penitentiary, Crissa sees no harm in adding to her already well-thought-out distribution of money, from a string of ready-cash safety deposit boxes and a variety of passports and new identities. Her long game is sufficient financial security to quit the game when the time is right. Contributing to efforts to win a parole for Wayne (through bribery of officials) has put a strain on her master plan, but Crissa will never abandon any effort to get Wayne out of prison. A new job on the horizon is not something Stone can take lightly.
In a crew of four, two already tested in former jobs, the one potentially weak link is a cousin, the individual who brought the job to the attention of the thieves. The inside man privy to the critical details of the heist of illegal drug money waiting for pickup in the trunk of a car in inner-city Detroit, this guy is pivotal to the timing of the theft. Only he will know the time and place to hit the mark and escape before reinforcements can be brought to the scene.
Everything goes as planned, the snatch-and-grab without incident, with plenty of time to split the take and carry out the final stages. Each crew member heads in a different direction. Then, just as Crissa has feared, the spoils provide too much temptation and chaos erupts. Crissa and friend Larry Black run for their lives. As a seasoned pro, Crissa instinctively knows what to do to save herself, but concerns for Larry hinder her and the two go to ground. While a furious drug lord instructs his lieutenants to get his money back and “shoot the woman first,” an ex-Detroit cop has his own plans to recoup the money and deal with Stone in his own time.
As in his other Crissa Stone novels, Stroby writes with a sure hand, creating a believable and sympathetic character—an accomplishment, considering the fact that his protagonist is part of an active criminal enterprise. Laying the background for his protagonist’s evolution from victim to professional, Stroby has given Stone a broader dimension than that of a thief, defining her character by loyalty, compassion and the particular ethics of the denizens in that particular element of society’s underbelly.
Returning again and again to the professionals who have been an integral part of Wayne’s career—men raised on old-school rules—Stone appreciates the anonymity and security they offer, especially when contrasted with the impatience, greed and impulsive mayhem of a younger generation. This consistency has so far kept Stone from being taken out, though ex-cop Frank Burke comes frighteningly close to successfully completing his mission. As usual, it’s a split-second reaction, the instinctive survival mechanism triggered by imminent danger that gives Crissa the edge over death—at least this time. It remains to be seen how long Crissa Stone’s luck will last: “You can always go out and find some more money somewhere. It’s time that runs out.”