The Heartbreak Lounge: A Novel (Harry Rane Novels)

Wallace Stroby
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What happens next shows why the searing talent and explosive writing evident in The Barbed-Wire Kiss was only the beginning, and why Wallace Stroby is destined to be one of the finest crime writers of a generation. Show sample text content. I called Directory Assistance too. No one with that name and that address. What are you going to do? If no luck, stop by, try and talk to her. They come home and the house has been broken into, alarm turned off, and the safe is popped, contents missing. The contractor—a guy named Hurst—disappears like two days later.

Johnny blew smoke out, looked at the ocean. They were on the Asbury boardwalk, the day bright and cold, the sun flashing hard off the water. The wind was whining through the holes in the Casino roof. He propped one boot on the pipe railing overlooking the beach.

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A nice change from the supermen we encounter too often in thrillers these days. Both books depict an illegal dog fight on an out of the way street in a big city DC in Pelecanos' book; Newark in Stroby's. Both have a minor character who owns the dog that loses. Both characters are young African American teens who are moved to tears when they have to kill the dog they raised. Stroby really had the chance to create his own mileau; no one else is writing this kind of crime novel set in this location.

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So why did he have to borrow so blatently from someone else's work? The work is revered by aficionados of the genre, many of whom establish their bona-fides with one another by demonstrating their ability to recite the opening paragraph of the book from memory. I shall now give these individuals cause to rend their garments at the blasphemy I'm about to commit, but commit it I must: Pick up the book, test drive those pages, and see if you can stop reading, once you've brushed from your eyes the grit and gravel that you've accumulated as you stand with the newly released Johnny Harrow on the hot macadam of a Florida highway as he ostensibly attempts to hitchhike away from his past and into his future.

But if you're not familiar with Stroby, and Rane, you might want to hang with me for just a minute here. You won't be sorry. Stroby's territory is the southern end of Central New Jersey, not the genteel Red Bank or even the deceptively laid back Monmouth, but Asbury Park and Neptune, municipalities that exude a quiet, dark uneasiness below the surface.

The Heartbreak Lounge (Harry Rane Novels)

It is to this area that Harrow is returning by way of Florida to settle old scores and to avenge what he considers, not without some merit, to be a number of wrongs wrought upon him. One of these involves a woman named Nikki Ellis, who gave birth to Harrow's son while Harrow was in prison and gave the baby up for adoption. Rane, for his part, is employed by a security agency run by one of his former state trooper colleagues. Ellis retains the agency for protection, an act that puts Rane and Harrow on a collision course.

Rane's tragic flaw is that he is a man who attracts violence while being reluctant to respond in kind. Harrow, on the other hand, has the cunning of a reservoir dog and the disposition to match. Jan 31, Sean rated it liked it Shelves: A good follow-up to Barbed Wire Kiss. I was worried when Stroby added another POV character, this time a criminal named Johnny, mostly because I had become so used to Harry's voice - I was unsure that I would like another character.

Johnny's hardly likable, but he keeps the action moving, and certainly fulfills the role of a protagonist as someone who wants something very strongly and will stop at nothing to get it.

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In that light, Harry's a sort of antagonist to Johnny, primarily trying to stop Johnny from getting what he wants. May 04, Russ rated it it was amazing. Great read, great characters. Jersey shore crime fiction. Aug 15, Maddy rated it liked it Shelves: Formerly a New Jersey State Trooper, he is biding his time waiting for a woman he loves to figure out her feelings and hopefully leave Seattle to be with him.

His days consist of doing some mindless investigative work for another former Trooper, Ray Washington, and self medicating against the physical pain he is experiencing as a result of an injury sus RATING: At times, Harry meets with Ray and prospective new clients to learn what help they need. At one such meeting with a woman named Nikki Ellis, he immediately puts her on the defensive, and she leaves. Feeling guilty about leaving Ray in the lurch, Harry tracks her down and gets involved in her problem. It turns out that her ex, Johnny Harrow, has just been released from a prison in Florida.

His main mission is to track down Nikki and find their son, who she placed for adoption shortly after his birth. He's also looking to settle some scores with some of the mobsters whose betrayals led to his arrest.

The Heartbreak Lounge

Most of the book focuses on Johnny and his pathology, the things that he does to find Nikki, his "partnership" with an FBI agent who has traded Johnny's early release from prison for getting information from the Mob, and his connections with the gangster element of South Jersey. Nikki was a dancer at The Heartbreak Lounge, and that's where Johnny starts his quest. The story is heavy on "heartbreak", making the title a very ironic one. Stroby is a fine writer, and his portrayal of Johnny is one of the high points of the book. My one issue with this and the first book is how Stroby portrays the relationships that Harry develops with the lead female characters.

They just aren't convincing. In the case of Nikki and Harry, she constantly brings up her past and he nobly accepts all of her flaws and peccadilloes. The same is true of his interactions with the woman he is waiting for, Cristina. Somehow, this "love of Harry's life" scenario never feels all that deep and meaningful.