The death of Paco "Packy" Johnson shouldn't have surprised anyone.
Paco Johnson spent a lifetime in the system -- starting in juvie at age 10, then prison for most of his adult life. But he managed to make some real friends in prison, friends who helped him get parole, a place to stay, and plans to help him adjust to a life outside prison after seventeen years behind bars. But only seventeen hours after he was released, he was found dead -- murdered -- in the streets of the Bronx.
James Beck can't save Packy any longer -- but he can try to find out what happened to Packy, and why, and exact a measure of justice. Beck, ringleader of a tight clique of ex-cons based in Brooklyn's Red Hook section, is determined to accord Packy at least some dignity and a measure of justice. But what drove Packy out onto the streets of the Bronx his first night back? Who did he run into that hated him enough to viciously beat him before executing him, and yet left behind his wallet full of cash?
But what at first appears to be a simple, if tragic, street killing, quickly becomes something much more difficult and complex. And it will take all the skills, connections, and cunning of Beck and his team not only to learn the truth but to survive the forces they've unwittingly unleashed.
Ex-con James Beck places loyalty above all else, as shown in Clarkson's highly entertaining sequel to 2015's Among Thieves. With a firm belief in the brotherhood of criminals, Beck unconditionally trusts his crew of fellow ex-cons, many of whom he met in prison before his first-degree manslaughter conviction was overturned. He's especially anxious to bring into his fold Paco "Packy" Johnson, who's being paroled after 17 years in prison. But soon after being released, Packy is murdered on a Bronx street. Beck and his team, who operate out of his Red Hook saloon, set out to find who killed Packy and try to help his 16-year-old daughter, Amelia, who works for pimp Derrick Watkins, one of the Bronx's most vicious criminals. Beck and company run up against not only Watkins but also Det. John Palmer, an overly ambitious cop not above skirting the law. Strong storytelling combined with breathless action and a high body count keeps the solid plot churning, as do the complex characters.