Picks and Pans Review: Invasions

updated 05/28/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/28/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Eugene Izzi

Frank Vale, one of the protagonists of this novel is a professional invader. He is a master in the criminal art of breaking into a high-rise apartment, a suite of offices or a bank and walking out with the goods. In all his years of illegal entry, Vale has never been caught. Not once. His plan is to walk away with that record clean.

Frank's brother Jimmy wants to walk away as well. He has just finished a hard nine years at Stateville Penitentiary and likes the idea of dying as a free man.

That's the dream—the Vale brothers will figure out a way to cut the cord and turn into honest civilians. The reality is that there's another job waiting to be done, the perfect score.

It is an opportunity too good to pass up, especially for someone who feels that stealing is the only pastime that brings a smile to the face: "The appealing thing about being a thief, in Frank's mind, was the fact that he was getting over on the whole, entire world. All of his life, for as long as he could remember, there had been a sense of retaliation after robbing some fat rich happy bastard who'd had it all handed to him on a silver platter. He would read the papers after a caper, listen to the radio and TV newscasts, reveling in it when there was mention of the 'ingenious' robbery, or when the victim was portrayed as an 'heir' to something. He loved stealing from heirs, from people who'd been given their possessions."

Invasions is a hard and brutal book, filled with anger, passion and a cunning understanding of the criminal mind. Eugene Izzi (The Prime Roll, The Take), who is from Chicago's South Side, has published seven novels in less than three years, thereby putting an open contract out on the crime-fiction field. He's already an equal of George V. Higgins and Andrew Vachss and has his sights set in Elmore Leonard's direction.

Izzi writes with a furious energy, paces his book with a safecracker's painstaking skill and litters his pages with the best bad guys in town. The chapters set inside prison walls are tinged with a realism that chills, while the setups, rubouts, squabbles and heists bring the reader close enough to smell the gaudy after-shave on the invader's neck.

Reading Invasions is like spending four hours in a mob restaurant—you aren't likely to remember the food nearly as much as the characters met and the dialogue overheard. (Bantam, $17.95)

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