Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Credit To The Force

Signet's Decoy series revolved around Nick Merlotti, a charismatic thief and master of disguise who enjoyed a high-profile career that included taunting the police after another daring ripoff. Several years after "The Great Pretender"'s last caper, he reappears to rob a bank, but is busted. A cop named Duffy (an old acquaintance of Merlotti's) and an assistant district attorney named Passantino offer Merlotti a deal: go to work for them, kinda like Robert Wagner in IT TAKES A THIEF.

$5 million in heroin vanished from a police evidence locker shortly before a major trial, and Duffy believes the cops involved are on mobster Louie Gianfreddo's pad. To avoid jail, Merlotti agrees to work undercover and ingratiate himself into Gianfreddo's organization to find the drugs and ferret out the dirty cops. He is teamed with a mysterious black electronics expert named Mr. Waves, who appears to have made the same type of deal with Duffy and Passantino that Merlotti did.

Told in first person, 1974's THE GREAT PRETENDER, the first in the Decoy series, is not terribly interesting, but I can't say that I hated it. Although he's supposed to be a disguise artist, Merlotti doesn't really do anything like that in the book, nor does he do any stealing or Rockfordesque scamming. I don't even know why the series is called Decoy, because the word or name never appears in the book, and the hero doesn't do any decoying.

I have at least one more Decoy book that I'll give a chance to. There's nothing really wrong with THE GREAT PRETENDER. But there's not a lot right with it either. Besides the cover, of course.

No comments: