Review: Cold Shot to the Heart by Wallace Stroby

Professional thief Crissa Stone’s mentor and lover is locked away in Texas after a job gone wrong. He’s up for parole soon, and it’s possible that $250,000 under the table might aid in his early release. Crissa believes that if he isn’t out soon, he’ll die in prison. She needs the money, and quickly.

The heist of a high-rolling poker game in Fort Lauderdale may provide the funds. She’s got some qualms about it, but she knows the other members of the crew and decides it’s worth the risk. Of course it goes wrong–one of the poker players with some unfortunate connections ends up dead, and recently-released psychopath Eddie “the Saint” Santiago catches wind that there are three thieves running around who just made an awfully large score…

Wallace Stroby’s fourth novel, Cold Shot to the Heart, is much pulpier than its predecessor, the excellent Gone ’til November. Gone ’til November was as much a character study as it was a crime novel, whereas Cold Shot to the Heart largely eschews human drama in favor of a breakneck, action-packed narrative where the situation quickly spirals out of control and the bodies quickly pile up.

This isn’t to say that the characters in Cold Shot to the Heart are cardboard cutouts. Stroby’s ability to create convincing and sympathetic female leads, so prominent in Gone ’til November, is on display again in Cold Shot to the Heart. What made Crissa Crissa isn’t gone into in detail, but the reader learns just enough to like her and care about her without slowing down the action.

And this tough girl faces a worthy opponent in Eddie the Saint, a merciless, single-minded killing machine who invites comparisons to George Uhl in The Sour Lemon Score.

I don’t know if that particular similarity is intentional, but Richard Stark fans will find several references to the Parker novels scattered throughout Cold Shot to the Heart, enhancing enjoyment of a book that’s already highly enjoyable on its own.

Whether you play “spot the reference” or not, you’ll like Cold Shot to the Heart, a smart start to what is likely a series to look forward to.

Note: Check back later this week for an exclusive interview with Wallace Stroby, as well as a giveaway of Cold Shot to the Heart and a related contest.