Picking up shortly after the events of Cold Shot to the Heart, author Wallace Stroby’s Kings of Midnight finds professional thief Crissa Stone working an ATM heist gig with two partners as she continues her efforts to build up enough of a nest egg to get out of the life for good. One big, final score should do it. No matter how much you plan though…
When her last ATM heist goes seriously off the rails, Crissa is forced to use an unfamiliar source to quickly launder the cash she does have so she can disappear. Unfortunately, as the saying goes if it wasn’t for bad luck Crissa would have no luck at all. The sleazy attorney she sets the deal up with doesn’t exactly come through, leaving Crissa once again behind the eight ball struggling to find a way back on top.
The answer seems to present itself when an old friend, and former wiseguy, puts Crissa in touch with Benny Roth, himself a reformed mobster, who has an intriguing proposition. Seems Benny’s boss back in the day, Joey D., was involved with the infamous 1978 Lufthansa heist that netted nearly 6 million. Word on the street is that Joey D. never spent his share of the money, and now that Joey’s dead people are starting to look for it. Benny hadn’t given it a second thought since he got out of the game 25 years ago, but when his former cronies showed up on his doorstep with an offer he couldn’t refuse Benny figured if anyone was gonna find the loot it may as well be him. But he can’t do it alone.
And with that setup Kings of Midnight takes off like a house afire, with Stroby proving once again why he’s the reigning master of the modern day mob/heist novel. From the ATM gig that kicks the story off, to the Lufthansa score flashback, to Crissa and Benny’s hunt for the missing loot, Stroby’s descriptions of the way the heists are carried out are so intricately detailed it makes one wonder exactly what kind of research he does for his novels. Similarly, there are no played out mob tropes or over-the-top caricatures to be found. The wiseguys in Kings of Midnight, as with all Stroby novels, are carefully constructed, three dimensional, scary but utterly believable characters.
Stroby also continues to excel at writing strong, intelligent female characters. Crissa is always well prepared and usually at least a step ahead of the game, playing mental chess while everyone around her is playing checkers. It’s a refreshing change of pace in a genre normally dominated by testosterone-driven, cocky, übermen. Yet, though Crissa knows exactly what she wants and isn’t afraid to do whatever it takes to get it, she’s not just some female Rambo either. She’s very aware every step of the way that she’s making decisions and committing acts which will have lasting, irreversible effects on her conscience. And for all the crackling dialog and fast-paced action, the real beauty of Stroby’s writing comes from the internal battle Crissa wages as she continually balances her goals against the measures she must engage in to obtain them.
Thankfully, though Kings of Midnight brings the story at hand to a thrilling, bloody, satisfying conclusion, the overall story arc of Crissa’s quest to get out of the game remains, and I can’t wait to dive into whatever Stroby has planned for her next.
Kings of Midnight is available from Minotaur (ISBN: 978-1250000378).
And be sure to read Wallace’s guest post, “The Five Best Crime Novels You’ve Never Read.”