Sunday, July 14, 2019

CROSSWISE


CROSSWISE
By S.W. Lauden
Down & Out Books
139 pgs

Tommy Ruzzo is an ex-New York cop kicked off the force for criminal behavior. He follows his girlfriend, Shayna, back to her hometown of Seatown Florida. Shortly thereafter she dumps him and takes a powder. Ruzzo accepts a job as the Head of Security manager at a beachfront retirement facility known as Precious Acres. He spends most of his days between driving a golf cart around the grounds to getting drunk at a local watering hole named the Rusty Pelican.

One morning the custodian, Ruzzo’s drinking buddy, finds one of the residents dead on the bocce court with his throat cut. As many of the patrons are former New Yorkers, several with mob ties, Ruzzo suspects that maybe the past is catching up to them. Getting little help from the local Sheriff, he keeps poking about and then a second resident is killed. The old man is found with the local newspaper laid on his chest opened to where the cross-word puzzle is found. Another of the old snowbirds tells Ruzzo about a hitman who would post warnings in the cross-word puzzles as a way to unnerve his intended targets.

In the middle of this chaos, Shayna returns, this time with her husband in tow. He’s a small time drug dealer with a mean streak. Could he have anything to do with the murders? Does he know anything about Ruzzo’s relationship with previous Shayna? Within a week, the world-weary ex-cop is knee deep in bodies and beginning to think he may be next on the list of some deranged mob assassin.

S.W. Lauden’s writing is lean delivering only what the story requires to keep it moving along. There are no long passages of exposition or insightful reflection. His characters, especially Tommy Ruzzo, are all flawed and doing simply doing their best to get from day to day. When murder enters the stage, masks come off and a killer takes the spotlight.

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