Picks and Pans Review: A Fine Line

updated 07/10/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/10/1989 01:00AM

by Ken Gross

Jack Mann's plane circles New York and lands late. His clothes are dirty, his pockets empty, his body tired. He walks toward his battered Buick, a beaten man. Then, as he reaches for his keys, a gun is pressed against his ear. It seems the perfect end to a miserable day.

It isn't. The attacker winds up dead on the airport pavement, and ex-cop Mann, protagonist of this crime-novel debut, is left holding the bag—one the attacker was carrying, with a million dollars cash inside. Mann does the only sensible thing. He stashes the stiff and keeps the stash.

That move, sad to say, only opens the car door to a slew of even deadlier problems. The cops are suddenly fast on his tail. The mob wise guys wouldn't mind seeing him face down in the river. The Irish Republican Army—which the money had been headed for—has plans of its own: gunning down Britain's Prime Minister. The body count starts to grow, the bullets fly East Side and West, and tempers are as short as 10-second fuses. Mann, meanwhile, ducks and dodges the hot action better than anyone this side of Sugar Ray Leonard, and a good time is had by all—especially readers of this novel by Gross, a PEOPLE senior writer.

Gross paints fine portaits of an amusing assortment of characters, from Nora the troubled barmaid to shadowy Michael the revolutionary, to the well-intentioned but criminally minded machinations of Martin the pub owner. The dialogue is realistic, the settings diverse and the action satisfying for any blood-and-guts buff.

Mann is a fine addition to the mystery-character field. A jaded mix of sullen streetwise and hopelessly lost romantic, he greets each day with a frown and a mound of bills and each night wonders why he's still alive. So if you've been looking for a reason to forget those Miami Vice reruns for a while, here it is. (Tor Books, $16.95)

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