Parole officers Loretta Kovacs and Frank Marvelli have a big problem. They've been ordered to find hit man Sammy Teitlebaum before Sammy kills mob turncoat Gus Rispoli, who's tucked away at My Blue Heaven, the Witness Protection Program's top-secret prison. But the bad guys don't anticipate the tenacious efforts of Loretta and Frank as they travel to Seattle to find Sammy and stop him. They also don't count on having to deal with Loretta, who's decided to quit coffee cold turkey...
Parole officers Loretta Kovacs and Frank Marvelli have a big problem. They've been ordered to find hit man Sammy Teitlebaum before Sammy kills mob turncoat Gus Rispoli, who's tucked away at My Blue Heaven, the Witness Protection Program's top-secret prison. But the bad guys don't anticipate the tenacious efforts of Loretta and Frank as they travel to Seattle to find Sammy and stop him. They also don't count on having to deal with Loretta, who's decided to quit coffee cold turkey - just as they hit Java City.
A cranky fat woman and her hunky partner in the New Jersey Bureau of Parole's "Jump Squad" (those who track down cons who "jump" parole) are an unlikely pair nonetheless ripe for comic plotting as Bruno proved in their first well-received outing, Devil's Food (1997). Fans of Loretta Kovacs and Frank Marvelli may be disappointed in the follow-up, though nifty plot twists and Bruno's clutch of kinky bit players still make it worth the read. The duo is off to coffee-rich Seattle to reel in Frankie's brother-in-law, Sammy, a parole violator who's working as a hit man, and the formidable Loretta grows nearly homicidal while she tries to kick caffeine. What almost saves this Dilbert-esque conceit is the crime-novel set-up. Sammy's target is a federal witness against loathsome mobster Taffy Demaggio; slender, blonde, diet pill-popping FBI agent Veronica Springer wants the hit to happen so Taffy will flip on bigger fish. Frank calls in a debt from another FBI agent to find a secret witness-stashing compound in Puget Sound, and the pair spring the hit man, avoid the feebs and get tangled with Sammy and Taffy in ways the reader won't see coming. The resolution works, and budding romance points to new ground for the series ahead. The coffee gimmick grows quickly tiresome, and some of the humor falls flat, but there's enough good writing to justify hope for an improved third caper. (Aug.) FYI: Devil's Food will be released by Forge as a mass market paperback in July.
Another madcap adventure for New Jersey parole officers Loretta Kovacs and Frank Marvelli, assigned this time to bring back an errant hit man who just happens to be Marvelli's brother-in-law. Loretta's star has fallen even further since Devil's Food (1997). She's still frustrated that the assistant warden's job she botched dumped her into the Jump Squad; she's still fretting about her queenly weight and Marvelli's failure to get interested in her; and now that she's gone cold turkey on coffee, she'd be ready to check into a methadone/caffeine clinic if she hadn't found out that Sammy Teitlebaum, brother of the late wife Marvelli can't get over, has jumped bail and gone after King Rat, nonpareil mob informant Gus Rispoli. The US Marshals are holding Rispoli in a secret prison for protected felons universally known as My Blue Heaven, which turns out, after the usual that's-so-secret-we-can't-tell-you balderdash, to be located outside Seattle, coffee capital of the universe. So Loretta and Marvelli head for the West Coast, little knowing that Veronica Springer, the FBI liaison with the Marshal Service, is not only despicably svelte but secretly in cahoots with Taffy Demaggio, the crooked medical-parts supplier who ordered the hit on Rispoli. In case those complications aren't enough, Rene's kid sister Jennifer (Sammy's estranged wife), when she pops up, is the spitting image of her late sister, and very affectionate toward her brother-in-law; and Bruno throws in Jerry and Larry, twins whose libidos and handguns are a lot bigger than their I.Q.'s, to give every third scene another comical spin. The result is decaf Elmore Leonard, a synthetic but highly entertaining whirligig of Mexicanstandoffs, in which it makes perfect sense for two guys trying to kill each other to argue at gunpoint about the etiquette of a good hit. As for what keeps Bruno from scaling the heights of Leonard's mobbed-up farces: Be warned that when Loretta finally breaks down and orders a double espresso, Bruno cuts away before she even gets a chance to drink it.
Anthony Bruno's novel Devil's Food, the first book in the Kovacs/Marvelli series, received an Anthony nomination for Best Novel of 1998. He is also the author of several other acclaimed crime novels, including Hot Fudge, Bad Luck, Bad Guys, Bad Mood, Bad Business, and Bad Apple. Somewhere along the way, he also squeezed in the bestselling novelization of the hit movie Seven.