Thursday, July 28, 2016

Quickish: "Rough Riders" by Charlie Stella

Quickish: Rough Riders, 2012, 9781933586397.

Standard Stella fare where you're left wondering why this was not on a bestseller list.

Stella set this novel in his college state of North Dakota and peoples the story with amoral and guiltless crooks and killers. The Feds are career driven and the local cops and low-level crooks are usually the only ones who give a damn about justice.

Washington Stewart is in Witness Protection in Minot. Washington was a bad guy in 2001's Eddie's World and survived that novel's finale face shooting. Washington is now one-eyed, sunken cheeked from missing skull bone, and running drugs. Washington is supposed to be under he thumb of FBI Agent in Charge Morris but Washington has not respect for Willis and often resists the impulse to shoot Morris. Washington has been running drugs on the side as he works with Morris on a bigger drug sting.

Morris has teamed up with an Air Force Reserve Colonel who stumbled on a heroin stash at the AFB. Morris has arranged to kill the Colonel's wife and the two of them will sell the rest of the heroin and leave the country. Morris is smart but incautious. He has dopes working for him and having a FBI overseer has given him some immunity. Besides, if a couple people OD on heroin and he has to murder a couple staff that's OK because he is leaving town soon anyway.

But, Morris is angry over losing his eye and he wears a partial mask to cover the resulting scars on his face. He sends one of his local goons Long Island to kill the man who scarred him. That murder for hire is botched and the PI hired to look for Washington happens to be the same guy who busted him a decade ago. That PI follows some clues to ND.

Local Police Detective Dale is a combat veteran, in a new-ish marriage, and works long hours. The recent spree of unusual violent crimes have him and a Police Sergeant shaking the trees to find out what is going on. He slowly tracks onto to Washington.

Other characters come in and Stella has a shifting POV. Stella really speeds things up in the last quarter of the book and frequently shift that POV building to the climax.  Great stuff.

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