Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Murder Is My Business

Well, I've finished Lancer's Soldato series, now that #3, STRANGLE HOLD!, is done. Writer Al Conroy sticks to the tried-and-true Soldato formula, which basically recycles the previous Soldato book. This time, Johnny Morini is in Florida, where fat old Don Nemo Paragluci summons two other dons, from Jacksonville and from Miami, with a plan to team up as a combine and take over all Syndicate business in the Sunshine State. Morini poses as Frank Lott, a Mob official from California, who's ostensibly there to monitor Nemo's operation. In reality, Morini, working on orders from wealthy Carmine Pannunzio and his Washington contact Riley, is to get in good with Nemo's family and then destroy the entire operation.

At 222 pages, STRANGLE HOLD! doesn't feel at all padded. Even though a late-chapter art heist comes across as incongruous, it's paced and described with such tension that it plays more naturally than it should. Even though Morini, basically, is just a knockoff of the Butcher—another ex-Mafioso now dedicated to destroying the Syndicate—Conroy keeps the formula feeling fresh. And, yes, there is, as in #1 and #2, another setpiece involving Morini trudging through the wilderness with two gunsels on his tail.

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