Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Killer In The Night

I really liked this tightly rendered crime novel, the fourth in Lancer's series of books about Soldato: Man Against the Mafia. And it comes as no surprise how professional the writing is, when one discovers that author Al Conroy is actually Marvin H. Albert, whose long resume includes mysteries, hard-boiled crime novels, international adventures, westerns, film adaptations and screenplays for tough movies like DUEL AT DIABLO (a bloody western starring James Garner and Sidney Poitier) and THE DON IS DEAD (Anthony Quinn and Robert Forster in the Mafia).

I'm looking for other Soldato novels after the coolness that is MURDER MISSION!. A soldato is a "soldier," a gunsel in the Mafia, which is what Johnny Morini was before he had a change of heart, testified against his former boss, and went into the witness protection program. There, he agreed to make amends by fighting the Mafia--going undercover to destroy various Dons from within the organization. In New Orleans, he poses as Harry Bacchi, a soldato out of Chicago, who charms local Don Marno Cadvarutti by arranging for his grandson to be knocked into the water and then conveniently rescuing the boy in Marno's presence. He is welcomed into Cadvarutti's ranks, though various monkey wrenches are tossed into Morini's plan to conquer the don, including Marno's suspicious heroin-addicted brother Milo, his disowned daughter Helena, the arrival of a mobster from the West Coast carrying a sketch of the notorious Mafia-killing Morini (no one knows his new face, and Johnny wants to keep it that way), and the arrival of Bacchi's old Chicago don, who thinks Harry has busted out of prison (the Justice Department has the real Bacchi on ice in maximum security).

Conroy/Albert effectively keeps a lot of balls in the air, believably setting up more obstacles for Morini, who evades them with smarts and skill. The action scenes, including a car/boat/foot chase that concludes on a dark sandbar, are exciting, though not overly violent, and the camaraderie between Morini and Riley, his Justice Department contact (who is kidnapped during this New Orleans adventure), provides the story with some real humanity. The cover offers a final-chapter spoiler.

1 comment:

Mongoose said...

I think the guy who did the early DESTROYER covers because the guy on the Soldato cover is a dead ringer for Remo c. 1972