The Buffalo Job: A Wilson Mystery


Wilson should have just walked away when three men came looking for a way to boost a valuable piece of art. But the heist was more than just a job for Wilson; it was a chance to get off the sidelines and back in the game.

The art came off the wall, the alarm screamed thief, and Wilson walked away clean. But it turned out that job was an interview for an even bigger heist. A dangerous man wants Wilson to get him something more valuable than a ...

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Buffalo Job, The: A Wilson Mystery

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Wilson should have just walked away when three men came looking for a way to boost a valuable piece of art. But the heist was more than just a job for Wilson; it was a chance to get off the sidelines and back in the game.

The art came off the wall, the alarm screamed thief, and Wilson walked away clean. But it turned out that job was an interview for an even bigger heist. A dangerous man wants Wilson to get him something more valuable than a painting. Problem is Wilson only has a week.

Wilson and his crew crosses the border to Buffalo to steal a 200-year-old violin. Four men cross, but four don’t come back. A lot of people are interested in getting their hands on the instrument and none of them are shy about killing to get it.

The job starts like a bad joke — a thief, a conman, a wheel man, and a gangster get in line to cross the border — but the Buffalo job doesn’t end with a punch-line. It ends with blood.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Mob-enforcer turned freelance fixer Wilson returns for his fifth brutal adventure. Bored as a mere planner, Wilson agrees to steal a painting from the Art Gallery of Ontario. Success is its own punishment; Wilson's ability to plan and carry out the theft on little notice convinces Albanian crime lord Pyrros Vogli that Wilson is the man to assign the task of stealing a 288-year old Stradivarius violin during a very narrow window of opportunity and nobody says no to Pyrros. Wilson and his team—conman Miles, driver Carl and Pyrros' nephew Ilir—head across the border where they discover that not only is there a second gang working to steal the violin, there are angles to the job of which even Pyrros has no inkling. Four men go to Buffalo; not all of them will be coming home. In a world where cunning and planning can run aground on the shoals of avarice and betrayal, Wilson is a survivor because he has shed any delusions of decency that might make him hesitate at a crucial moment. Merciless but honest about being monstrous, Wilson is worthy to stand next to Loren Estleman's Peter Macklin and Donald Westlake's Parker. (June)
From the Publisher

"This is a very good entry in a very good series." — Booklist

Library Journal
In this sequel to Never Play Another Man's Game Toronto master thief Wilson is recruited by Ilir, a neophyte, bumbling Albanian "gangster," to steal a valuable painting. Wilson's quick success leads to another job from Ilir's uncle, Vogli, the boss of Toronto's Albanian mob: steal a Stradivarius from a Buffalo, NY, concert hall. As part of the $800,000 deal in which Wilson gets half up front and half on delivery, he must include Ilir in his team as Vogli's eyes and ears. Wilson recruits two additional men and the quartet travel to Buffalo to scout the venue and concoct the plan. What they do not realize is the Buffalo contingent of the Albanian mob also has the same idea. Things turn sour, but Wilson, the brains of the operation, seems to have answers for every situation—up to a point. VERDICT Despite the Elmore Leonard/Donald Westlake plot, Knowles lacks those authors' verbal talents. Ploddingly paced, the book's writing is also clunky, especially in the overuse of similes. Wilson and his cohorts resemble the Keystone Kops more than professional thieves, and readers won't bond with any of them. Also the original art theft is too simplistic and the subsequent crime too convoluted. Purchase only if other books in this series circulate well.—Edward Goldberg, Syosset P.L., NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781770411715
  • Publisher: ECW Press
  • Publication date: 6/10/2014
  • Series: A Wilson Mystery Series , #5
  • Pages: 312
  • Lexile: 760L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Mike Knowles lives in Hamilton, Ontario. The books in the Wilson Mystery series include Darwin’s Nightmare, Grinder, In Plain Sight, and Never Play Another Man’s Game.
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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter Two

“We had everything planned out. We knew the camera hot spots, the guard rotation, the tour group times, everything. The only thing that we missed was —”

“The wire was a heavier gauge than you thought it would be,” I said.

Stubble, whose name was really Ilir, looked at me in surprise for a second. “Yeah,” he confirmed. “It was.”

“I’m guessing you thought you could get it off the wall with something hand-held.”

“We bought wire cutters special for the job,” Ray said.

“That how they got you?”

The three men were quiet. I could tell that they were wondering if they had walked into some kind of sting.

“I was holding the painting out so Ray could get at the wire. Dante was on lookout. Next thing you know, some guard is rushing at us. He shouldn’t have been there. There wasn’t supposed to be anyone in that part of the gallery for another five minutes at least. He’s coming at us and he already has his radio out. So Dante grabs onto him and they go down. They’re rolling around on the floor, right, and everyone is starting to pay attention. People have phones out and if they ain’t calling for help, they’re taking pictures. I drop the painting and we go over to get Dante and get out, but the guard — he’s on Dante like a fucking dog. He just won’t let him go. I start hitting him to get his hands off Dante when Ray joins in.”

Ilir looks at Ray, who is giving the table a blank stare. “I hit him with the wire cutters. I didn’t realize they were upside down. I swear I didn’t, guys. I didn’t know.”

“We know, Ray, we know. The wire cutters hurt the guy pretty bad.”

“Hurt, or dead?” I asked.

“Hurt. The tip went through the skull and into his brain —”

“Oh, Jesus,” Ray said.

Ilir looked at Ray and gave his shoulder a hard grip. “Easy, Ray, we got this. The guy is in a coma, but he isn’t dead. We got the hell out of there, but in the car Ray realizes that he can’t find the wire cutters. He dropped them somewhere on the way out.”

“Everything was just happening so fast. I had no idea I dropped them.”

Ilir cut Ray off. “Ray picked up the cutters the day before. He used his credit card to buy them. I guess some detective thought they looked new and did some checking. Ray got a call two days after the job went bad.”

“Why try to go after the painting again?” I asked, even though I had an idea what the answer was going to be.

“I got a lawyer,” Ilir said. “A good one.”

“He’s Jewish,” Dante said.

“Mazel tov,” I said.

“Fineberg figures if someone takes a second run at the painting and gets away with it, he can argue that there is a reasonable doubt that Ray wasn’t using the snips he bought to try and steal the painting. It would just be a coincidence.”

“’Cause what kind of idiot leaves behind a bloody weapon he bought with his own credit card a day before the job,” I said.

Ray put his head in his hands.

“Exactly,” Ilir said.

“There’s a simpler way to handle this,” I said.

All three men smiled and leaned in towards me. The look of relief on Ray’s face looked almost orgasmic. It was premature.

“Kill Ray.”

From Chapter Four

Friday at four in the afternoon was bustling outside of the tag. Tour groups passed me as they led tourists into the building. Native Torontonians brushed past me ignoring the cultural warehouse to their left. I nodded to the two men who were watching me with the focus of inebriated birds of prey. The two cleaned-up homeless men saw my signal and they immediately lifted their flyers into the air. Each held up fat pink stacks of paper that had all the markings of a genuine endeavour by the gallery. The barking that came from the two men was eerily similar to an old-timey carny trying to rope people in to see the bearded lady.

“Step right up, ladies and gentlemen. Step right up. In an effort to increase awareness about the arts, the Toronto Art Gallery is holding the first ever impressionist scavenger hunt.”

Small groups of people disengaged from the herd to listen, but most kept walking.

“Inside the gallery, at this very moment, is ten thousand dollars. That’s right, ten thousand dollars in cash.”

The mention of money did what mere advertisement couldn’t — everyone on the sidewalk who had been in earshot stopped where they were, changed course, and advanced on the two men and their colourful papers.

The two men that I had chosen saw the sudden influx of attention and turned their banter up another notch.

“That’s right! Ten thousand dollars free to whoever finds it first. Just complete the scavenger hunt. What could be easier? Learn about art and have a chance to go home with some colourful paper of your own.”

The flyers started moving fast. Each man had been supplied with two hundred sheets of paper; the thick stacks looked to be half of their original height when I passed by the two homeless men and quietly slipped each a fifty.

“Nice work, fellas.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Yeah, thanks,” the second man echoed.

I let the current of excited people pull me towards the bottlenecked entrance. The swollen line was gaining length and girth and I found myself jammed in behind three teenagers armed with flyers in one hand and smartphones in the other. They were all updating their Twitter accounts with information about the scavenger hunt.

I paid the entrance fee and walked with the crowd of scavengers towards the impressionist exhibition. All around me, I could hear people reading off the pages I had typed up with the help of information taken directly from the tag website. There were five different sets of instructions in all — enough to keep the entire exhibit pregnant with a litter of uncultured reality tv disciples for at least a half an hour.

By my watch, it took less than a minute for the first security guard to break away from the established route he circled for the duration of his shift and show up in the wing housing the impressionist exhibition on loan from Philadelphia. It took another minute for the poor guy to realize that he was horribly outnumbered and overwhelmed by the throng and call for help. The night before, I had been in the gallery watching the space as it breathed. There was a rhythm in the space, as if the gallery were a hibernating beast. The guards — there had to be at least two more on duty than before the attempted murder — moved with the type of efficiency that only boredom-inspired autopilot could create. They circled their designated zones slowly and then started again. Every now and then they interacted with a patron, either to tell them to step back or to answer a question, but they always ended up back on their practised route. The same number of staff was working today and within a minute, the lone guard was joined by five others. One of them, a man in his late fifties with a flat nose and thinning hair, liberated a flyer from a young tween and began examining it. He brought his walkie-talkie to his mouth, but it was already too late.

Woman in the Water! It’s behind Woman in the Water!”

The young woman who screamed her solution to the final clue had meant to tell only her boyfriend beside her, but the herd picked up on the exclamation.

There was no painting in the gallery titled Woman in the Water, but there were three paintings on the wall with women near bodies of water. The crowds circled the three paintings like carrion birds. There was squawking from each huddle about the choice before the birds in each group began their slow timid approach. Fingers began tentatively reaching for the art, but the first shout started a frenzy.

The six security guards began yelling for order, but the crowd was too loud for anyone to hear them. Four of the guards plunged into the crowds while the other two brought radios to their lips. I saw more guards coming towards the impressionist exhibit as shouts turned to screams. People were being dragged to the floor as more and more bodies surged forward towards the paintings. Anyone who had been unaware of the scavenger hunt had backed away from the small riot, but they stayed in the periphery with their eyes glued to the chaos. The only exception, investigators would find when they checked the tapes, would be the man in the sunglasses and hat.

I kept my brim low as I passed through the gaze of the three cameras observing the European art collection. The room was deserted as I approached the two-by-three rectangle on the wall. The picture wasn’t much to look at, surely nothing to shove wire cutters into a man’s brain over, but art was subjective I guessed. The attempted robbery had resulted in an increase in warm body security, not in anything technical. I had toured the tag the day before with a group. The guide was not enthusiastic about discussing the robbery, but she did remark with pride that the tag’s strict security measures had made sure that they did not lose a valuable piece of art on the sad day of the attempted robbery. She beamed with pride for just a second when she said, “The art never even made it off the wall.”

It was just what I thought. The cable had done its job; for the gallery, that would be a confirmation that they did everything right, and no one changes something that they got right.

I lifted the artwork and got it six inches from the wall before the wire went taut. I let the art down gently so that it was hanging against the wall. The frame had the wire affixed to its reinforced backing; the wire ran from the painting, through the wall, and into a mechanism behind the drywall. The wire was coated with a thick rubber that told me cutting it would immediately trigger an alarm. I took off my satchel and unzipped it. Inside the bag was a thick cloth that had been folded into a dense rectangle. I pulled out the cloth, unfolded it on the floor, and then unzipped the smaller rearmost compartment. I extracted the small electric handsaw and thumbed the power switch. The rotating blade would go through rebar — the thin security chain didn’t even put up a fight.

The painting came down and within seconds I had it wrapped in the cloth and inside the shoulder bag; the tool went back into the small compartment and the bag was back on my shoulder in half the time. If there was an audible alarm, I couldn’t hear it over the shouting and screaming still coming from the impressionist exhibit. I went down the stairs and rounded the base. There were cameras everywhere, but to the right of the stairs was a blind spot that covered four feet. I set down my bag and reversed my jacket. I pulled a different hat from the inner pocket and exchanged caps. The sunglasses changed next and then I pulled a flattened black duffel bag from an inner pocket of the satchel. I put the satchel into the duffel bag and left the blind spot. The main level was chaos as employees did double duty dealing with the small-scale riot upstairs and the excited onlookers downstairs. I walked out the front door, passing by two policemen on their way in. Who said art galleries were boring?

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