Review of ASK THE DICE by Ed Lynskey
Crossroad Press, March 2011
Tommy Mack doesn't think of himself as getting old. In his mid-fifties, he's still the top hit-man in the Washington D.C. area. So, it's no surprise when mob-leader Watson Ogg asks him to sort out the problems his niece has been having--someone, apparently, has been blackmailing her. Mack gets on the job, drives out to talk to the niece, and finds her dead. Not just murdered, but murdered with a double-tap from a .22--Mack's signature technique. All of which means that Mack has been framed... and he suspects his long-time boss, Ogg, is behind the frame.
Although Ogg lives in a middle-class subdivision, he's constantly surrounded by gunmen. And now, more mob gunmen are flowing into the Virginia suburbs looking for the bounty on Mack's head. Mack figures there's only one way to end it... and that's to kill Ogg. Unfortunately, Ogg never leaves his fortress-like home and Mack's assassination technique is close-up, not long-distance sniping. Then there's the little problem of being in his mid-fifties and never forming many close relationships (he is a hit-man after all... he can't exactly kick back and talk about work).
Author Ed Lynskey (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of mystery/thrillers by Lynskey) delivers a protagonist who is sympthetic despite his chosen career. Mack, an African-American in a mostly-white mob world, is a powerful presence on the page. Lynskey's dry writing style gives the readers the facts, while letting them make their own evaluation of the situation and of Mack's options. It's interesting to compare Lynskey's take on the hit-man with Laurence Block's. Both are talented writers but Lynskey's world is darker and the choices he offers are harder.
I've been a fan of Lynskey for years. ASK THE DICE is a bit of a different direction for him but his hardboiled view of the world comes through clearly. I sat down with this one and didn't get up until I'd finished it.
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