Ex-state trooper Harry Rane, who first appeared in Wallace Stroby's brilliant debut novel, The Barbed-Wire Kiss, is at loose ends. Doing some investigative work for a friend's firm just to keep himself busy, Harry meets Nikki Ellis, a woman desperate for help. Her ex, Johnny Harrow, was just released from prison after a seven-year stretch for attempted murder. Nikki hasn't spoken to him since he went down, but she knows what he's capable of, and that he'll be looking for her-and for the baby she put up for adoption after Johnny went away. She knows it's up to her to protect the child once again. And she's afraid.
As Harry finds out, she should be. Johnny is headed home to New Jersey to settle up with anyone who did him wrong while he was gone, including Nikki and his former employer, mobster Joey Alea. Then he's planning to find his son and start a new life.
Johnny starts at the Heartbreak Lounge, where Nikki was a dancer when she first met Johnny, and works his way through their old life, leaving a trail of blood and fear in his wake. Only Harry might be tough enough-or reckless enough-to help her. What happens next shows why the searing talent and explosive writing evident in The Barbed-Wire Kiss was only the beginning, and why Wallace Stroby is destined to be one of the finest crime writers of a generation.
Payback and revenge drive Stroby's taut, violent second outing for former New Jersey State Trooper Harry Rane (after 2003's The Barbed-Wire Kiss). With his wife, Cristina, away in Seattle to think things through after a rough marital patch, Harry seizes the chance to keep a protective eye on Nikki Ennis, who used to work as a dancer at the Heartbreak Lounge in a seedy section of Asbury Park. Nikki's vicious, amoral ex-husband, Johnny Harrow, who's just finished serving a seven-year stretch in a Florida prison for attempted murder, wants to find his young son, whom Nikki gave up as an infant, and heads for the Heartbreak, where he first met his ex-wife. Johnny also has a few scores to settle with some nasty people in Jersey, his home state. The thug's ruthless campaign threatens everyone in his line of sight, and not even Harry escapes his wrath. In the end, Stroby's suspenseful tale of bleak lives in danger offers a few glimmers of hope for those with damaged hearts.