Review: Payback (Lorenzo Carcaterra)

Payback begins with Detective Eddie Kenwood coercing a murder confession out of a young black man.

We then cut to Tommy “Tank” Rizzo watching his nephew Chris shoot hoops, and a tiny infodump about how Tank and his partner Frank “Pearl” Monroe were shot off the job and how Chris came to live with Tank – more specifically, how Tank’s brother and sister in law (Chris’ parents) were killed in an auto accident.

This is about the extent of how character development goes throughout the book. As this is book two in the series, perhaps we get to know the characters better in book one. Alas, I’ve not read it.

Tank and Pearl, ex-cops that they are, get thrown cases by the Chief of Detectives from time to time when the official NYPD detectives are overloaded. In this book, however, the focus is on determining if Tank’s brother – as his nephew insists – was murdered in that car accident, versus it being a real accident, and to find out is the company is laundering money for bad guys locally and from around the world. The secondary focus is on Tank and Pearl collecting evidence about Eddie Kenwood and more specifically, getting the young man who confessed at the beginning of the book out of prison.

Tank and Pearl run an investigative service, but there isn’t a ton of investigating of the main case done on the page – probably because it’s accounting, and pulling up spreadsheets and putting numbers all over the page would slow things down, as it’s difficult to put tension into that.

The better parts of the book are when Tank and Pearl actually go back into the field to get informants and cons to talk about Kenwood so they can build a case. Those parts are gritty and seem much more realistic (and are certainly much more interesting) than the primary case.

There are a number of murders, some tough guy talks by fixers from the accounting firm, a few scenes with Tank and his girlfriend, who is the daughter of a local mob boss with whom Tank is friendly, and who Tank brings in to help with the accounting firm parts, and an entirely unbelievable talk with the DA about blanket immunity for a group of Romanians up to and including murder if they have to be brought in to the accounting firm case.

Minus the group talks about the accounting firm, the book is a quick read, and fans of the genre will forgive the things like the DA’s immunity agreement, because those things make the story more interesting. Putting Tank’s brother’s death to rest by finding answers, but I think the two cases in this book would have been fine in a book devoted just to each.

Overall, a three star out of five read for me. Your mileage may vary.

Thanks to Random House/Ballantine and NetGalley for the review copy.