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Book Author: Wallace Stroby

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.








KINGS OF MIDNIGHT by Wallace Stroby: Book Review

What starts off perfectly for Crissa Stone as the last in a series of ATM robberies ends with her two partners shooting each other to death.  Not exactly the way Crissa had hoped it would end.

In Kings of Midnight, Crissa is the brains behind a number of successful robberies.   Forced to run after the murders, she now needs a way to launder the stolen money, all $340,00 of it.  So she goes to an old friend, Jimmy Peaches, a former mobster now living in a nursing home, to ask for his help.

At the same time, another mob-connected guy, Benny Roth, has seen his carefully constructed life fall apart after he’s found by some wise guys who think he knows where millions of dollars from a twenty-year-old robbery can be found.  Benny manages to escape, grab his girlfriend and a suitcase, and run.  And, as the plot would have it, he runs to Jimmy Peaches.

Nobody in Kings of Midnight is blameless.  Crissa has been a thief for years and now needs money to support her young daughter, who is living with Crissa’s cousin, and her lover, whom she is hoping will soon be released from prison.  She’s willing to do almost anything to get the money she needs, but she knows she needs to be careful; there are bad guys after her.  “Nothing’s ever easy, she thought.  No matter how much you plan, allow for every contingency.  Things go bad, and then you have to work twice as hard just to get back to where you started.”  But Crissa’s determined to do what she has to do for her daughter and her lover.

Benny is in a similar situation.  Many of the old mobsters are dead, and the ones who are alive want him to lead them to those millions.  Benny needs to protect himself and his girlfriend, not an easy task.  Although he was involved with gangsters when he was younger, Benny was never a killer, but right now he’s surrounded by men who are.

Wallace Stroby has written a thriller that has you cheering for the “bad guys,” hoping they don’t get caught by the police or killed by the really bad guys.  It’s a tightrope act for an author, but Stroby handles it perfectly.  His characters, flawed as they are, have enough humanity in them to touch us and make us like them.  We know they are on the wrong side of the law and that they chose to be there, but we still want them to come out on top.

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