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Monday, February 6, 2017

Among Thieves by John Clarkson


Among Thieves by John Clarkson precedes Bronx Requiem. James Beck and his crew of ex-cons find themselves in the middle of a financial nightmare that involves Wall Street sleaze bags, a retired NYPD detective, a NYPD precinct, a Russian mob, a Russian arms dealer, and various groups of thugs all trying to get a piece of the pie. It all starts, as always, with the very seductive and beautiful woman in trouble, Manny’s cousin, Olivia. Manny is a member of Beck’s crew. This is a mind-blowing action packed thriller that requires incredible timing, arts of persuasion, very careful planning, a perfect execution on part of Beck and his crew.
Manny wants to kill. Beck has to defuse that quickly and logically so as not to alienate Manny, but getting it right. The problem will be solved with as little violence as possible so as not to brings the cops down on the house of parolees. He doesn’t want anyone to go back to jail for any violations so peaceful means are always the way to the ends desired. Of course that’s not always how it works out, mostly because the other side doesn’t know peaceful means to the ends, so Beck and his crew must respond accordingly. For Beck and his crew, force is met with a greater force.
Beck and his crew are an interesting collection of specialists. They are all mostly former cons of the same institutions with a few civilians mixed in for their peculiar talents. Beck got into a bar fight in a cop bar and killed a cop. He went to jail for eight hard years. “Phineas P. Dunleavy, (Beck’s lawyer) loved battling law enforcement. Good, bad, competent, indifferent, it didn’t matter. Cops. Judges. Assistant district attorneys. It didn’t matter. He would even badger a court clerk or a corrections officer if he felt he had to. He didn’t waste energy being mean or vindictive about it. He just took it as his mission in life.” This is the kind of lawyer you want on your side. He got Beck out of jail and a two and a half million-dollar settlement from the city and a clean record. Dr. Brandon Wright, tall and lanky, and his able bodied nurse arrived at crucial times to patch things up, prescribe proper medications, give sound and useful advice, and leave without taking a fee. Beck always donates to Wright’s favorite charity and slips the nurse an envelope. Alex Liebowitz, the computer nerd, always talks too much about how he is doing something, as Beck always needs to get him to focus on the point of his assignments. Everyone needs an Alex in their crew. Finally the Bolo brothers, Ricky and Jonas. Bolo wasn’t their last name. Beck didn’t know their last name, didn’t need to. They were the Bolo brothers because Ricky wore bolo ties. They were Beck’s eyes on the street, car service when needed, and always ready to roll in their unmarked nondescript white van that could catch any racecar. These are the five civilians.
The rest of the crew are gentle men but can be stone cold killers when they need to be. Demarco Jones is a giant of a man, “He was six four, wide shouldered, muscular, around ten percent body fat, skin about the color of Beck’s strong coffee. He was handsome, but tough looking, especially his shaved head.’ He was a dapper dresser and gay. He was always at the bar near the front door. He could always get into the trendiest places to do what he needed to do because of how he carried himself and how he looked. “Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Guzman, a former lord of a Dominican street gang, former shot-caller of several prison gangs including the most feared gang in Dannemora prison.” The third member of this elite group was Ciro Baldassare. Ciro was the muscle. No one ever stared at Ciro too long. He was big very very big. He took up the whole back seat of cars but could move like a running back.  “The one with the neck tattoo is Ciro Baldassare. He has a long record. Two incarcerations. He’s connected to organized crime based in Staten Island. Among other things he’s a bone crusher. His last bit was for assault in connection with collecting money. He broke up two guys pretty bad. Sentence was three to eight. Would have been worse if it hadn’t been two against one.”
This motley crew led by Beck makes for entertaining reading and action. Clarkson has created a book hard to put down and one you want to return to quickly.

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