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SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST by Wallace Stroby: Book Review

I’m not sure how Wallace Stroby does it, but he’s done it again.  He’s made me follow a gun-carrying thief, a woman with a long criminal history, and hope she doesn’t get caught.  And I always thought I had high morals.

Shoot the Woman first is the third in the Crissa Stone series; I reviewed Kings of Midnight previously on this blog.  In Shoot the Woman First, Crissa is involved with a male trio of thieves who plan to steal from a city drug lord.  She knows her colleague Larry well and has worked with him before, knows Chuck slightly, but it’s the unknown fourth man, Cordell, Chuck’s cousin, who brought the plan to the others.

Cordell is young and doesn’t have much experience, but he knows how the gang members get their money to a different car each time on a different street, using a Tigers baseball cap as the signal for the car loaded with drug money.  Another car is the lookout, heavily armed, but Cordell insists he knows the gang’s plans inside out and he, along with Crissa, Larry, and Chuck, can take the money  without a problem.  He estimates the haul to be somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million dollars, which is a nice neighborhood to be in.

Of course, things don’t go exactly as planned.  The quartet does get away with the money, but Crissa is shot and the drug gang is after them.   And then the situation gets even worse.

All credit to Wallace Stroby for making Crissa Stone such a believable character.  Even as you know she’s a crook, an unapologetic one at that, you are hoping she will end up with the money and her freedom.  She has emotions and feelings that sometimes get the better of her, and in Shoot the Woman First these feelings of loyalty and responsibility lead her into further danger.  Even as she tells herself that what she’s doing is foolish and dangerous, she continues to do it because it seems to be the right thing to do.  Crissa disproves the old adage that there’s no honor among thieves.

The novel has a number of very strong characters.  In addition to Crissa, each member of her team is distinct–Larry, a friend of long standing, in whom she has complete confidence; Chuck, with whom she has worked in the past only once; and Cordell, an unknown quantity, a beginner in this business, but necessary because he knows where the money is and has a plan to get it.  There are also the members of the drug gang led by Marquis, a young guy who thinks he has all the answers, and Burke, a former Detroit cop who has gone over to the dark side.

The novel’s title comes from something that Burke tells Cordell.  In a situation where there are multiple targets, men and women, “…you shoot the woman first.”  When Cordell wants to know why, Burke responds, “Because in a gang or a crew or whatever, a woman’s got to be three times as tough, three times as committed, three times as hard-ass for the men to take her seriously.”  Burke is right, and he’s just described Crissa Stone.  Shoot the Woman First is a terrific addition to this hard-boiled series, and I hope the novels keep on coming.

You can read more about Wallace Stroby at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads blog at her web site.








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