Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Review: fifty-to-One, Charles Ardai

Hard Case Crime, 2008, ISBN 978-0-8439-5968-0, 329 pages.

Fifty-to-one is the fiftieth book published by Hard Case Crime and Charles Ardai made sure it was a great, fun read. He begins by imagining that Hard Case Crime was started fifty years ago rather that fifty titles.

Off the train from Aberdeen, South Dakota and needing a job right away because she just got conned out of most of her money, Patricia (Tricia) Heverstadt take a job as a dancer at a mob connected club. She really wants to write for the New Yorker. She lives in an office that has been converted into a dorm for several women in show business. The dorm just happens to be across the hall from the publishing company Hard Case Crime and the man who conned her out of her stake. Carter Blandon took her money because he needed to pay his printer but agrees to pay her back if she will do some work for him.

Blandon wants her to find someone who will talk about Sal Nicolazzo, the owner of the Sun where Tricia, now called Trixie, will be dancing. He wants a mob expose along the lines of I,Mobster and will pay Tricia a penny a word for the guy's story. Unfortunately, Trixie finds absolutely nothing useful at the club so she decides to invent a narrator. She borrows from other Hard Case Crime books,researches mob activity at the library, and creates a character who rises in the organization before getting sick of his boss and staging a daring and complicated robbery of a month's proceeds from all the operations.

Trixie never tells Blandon that she made up the story which is published with great success as I Robbed the Mob! by Anonymous. Then the office is visited by some thugs who want to know who wrote the book. It seems Sal's safe was robbed in the exact manner described in her book.

Trixie turns out to be tougher than you would think likely for an eighteen year-old woman fresh from South Dakota. She is your hard-boiled female character doing what it takes to keep her and Carter a step ahead of the mob and avoiding torture, certain death, or arrest.

It has everything I like in a hard-boiled story, great characters, interesting plot, terrific writing, and thrilling action. And some humor as well.

Ardai added some extras to make the book fun. He incorporated the titles of all fifty Hard Case Crime books into the story, either as chapter titles or within the story. It was quite a challenge when you consider that these past titles include A Diet of Treacle and Lemons Never Lie.

The cover shows a hard boiled character with a beautiful red-head in the offices of Hard Case Crime looking at selected titles scattered on the desk. Inside is a handy checklist so you can keep track of titles used in the story as well as pictures of all fifty covers.