Friday, November 12, 2010

"Buy Back" by Brian Wiprud

I do believe Wiprud just keeps getting better. I was very impressed with his previous book, "Feelers", and "Buy Back" is another gem. This time we get an inside track on the world of art theft and forgery, including lots of insider terms (nicely described and worked into the story by the author).

Tommy Davin certainly looks like he could be a criminal: standing six-foot-six and weighing in at 270 lbs, he's an imposing figure. And while he bills himself as an "insurance investigator", he's really working on the fringes of what could be considered legal; his job is more recovery of the stolen works so that the insurance company doesn't have to pay out the claim, and he's given fairly free rein to get the art back in any manner he sees fit to use. Despite his vocation, he's actually a pretty nice guy, one who refuses to carry a gun and uses tantric breathing to calm himself during stressful moments.

Unfortunately for Tommy, he's also a sucker for the wrong woman. His ex-girlfriend has flown the coop, leaving him with her $15,000 debt to a local loan shark - and her four cats, dubbed the Fuzz Face Four by Davin. Poor Tommy. He's saddled with Snuggles, the cat who "vomit(s)... like a fire hose", Lady Fuzz who has serious litter box issues, Tigsy the diabetic kittie, and Herman, the cat who wouldn't eat. He complains about them but you can tell that he also cares about them, especially after realizing that they've been kidnapped (he says more than once that he hopes whoever took the felines is giving Tigsy his insulin... awww...). Then the threatening notes start showing up under his front door. Only problem is the notes are written in Russian, and Tommy doesn't read Russian. But he has bigger problems...

In an attempt to pay off the loan shark, Tommy sets up his own art theft using a couple guys from the neighborhood that are known in the industry. His luck keeps getting worse when the crew inform him that the paintings they stole...were stolen from them. Adding insult to injury, Tommy's "employer" contacts him and asks him to investigate the theft, putting him in an awkward position. As he starts his "investigation", those around him start losing their lives in the most horrible fashion - shot to death by a sniper. And Davin is fairly certain that the sniper has missed each time - because he's been standing right next to the recently deceased during each incident. The police think Tommy is responsible for the shootings, even though he keeps telling them that he was the intended target. And that loan shark isn't getting any more patient about his money.

It's a wonderful little crime drama with the usual quirky Wiprud characters. The Brooklyn setting totally works, and the character development is excellent. If you like action, this book also has plenty of that, including the sniper scenes - very descriptive and actually pretty gruesome. Tommy Davin is a fabulous protagonist, and I hope that Wiprud revisits the neighborhood, and Tommy, sometime down the road.

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