Mad Dog Vengeance: Mark Rubinstein
Creating a new life for yourself when as a teen you were arrested along with your best friend and wind up in front of a judge. But, the judge gives you a temporary out to improve your life and discards the prison sentence for a four-year stint in the army. You accept. Coming out you change your ways, you nickname Mad Dog sticks even till this day but the meaning of friendship, loyalty and trust only goes as far as your best friend Danny Burns. Danny and an old friend Kenny/AKA Snake Eyes decided to buy into a restaurant business and the end result is you and Danny were swindled. Roddy Dolan our main character is a well renowned surgeon at Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville. Street gangs are over and his fists are at rest while his hands perform surgery every day saving lives. But, gang wars, criminal records, joining the army and his stellar reputation are about to undergo a different kind of surgery as the truth behind his original investment, what happened to the man named Kenny and his henchman Grange, will now come back and take Roddy by storm as he is under a different time constraint and gun when called by an old friend to do the unthinkable. Investing in the restaurant was the first mistake. McLaughlin’s was profitable until it wasn’t and the final count and the reality of what was done to him and would be done if he and Danny did not pay up on what this man Grange claims they owed him. Danny was almost a permanent casualty but now his checkered past is about to ruin his life, endanger the life of someone he loves if he does not face the facts that he is now under the ownership of Carmine Cellini who is at war with Edward Merko in a turf war.
Some invitations should have been declined but in this case when Dr. Vinzy Masconi calls his old medical school classmate, Roddy Dolan to come to dinner at Geppettos in the Bronx, part of Little Italy, he should have refused. Dinner is great at the chef created a veal chop and risotto to die for, but Roddy is threatened, commanded and forced to do something that could take away all the he holds dear.
Consequences are something that many do not contemplate before taking action against someone carrying out a specific request or task. When Roddy meets with Carmine Cellini as a result of going to this dinner the nightmares will be renewed, the body count might rise and then end result more than tragic.
Carmine Cellini and Edmond Merko an Albanian man who runs his own businesses that are of course into drugs, money laundering and other illegal crimes, has in his control the turf or area that Carmine wants for the Italians. The solution is to eliminate Merko and the only way he won’t be implicated is if Roddy operates on him for his leg surgery and takes every precaution to make sure he does not survive. But, Roddy has a conscience and agrees to nothing and claims he will think about it until Merko is brought into the hospital for emergency surgery to correct an obstruction caused as a result of having his gallbladder removed in the past. Cellini makes threats as to why he didn’t finish him off and Roddy explains he could not tamper with the IV because there were others in the operating room but Cellini has his spies. Meeting with Merko after the surgery to check on him, he invites Roddy to his restaurant for dinner for saving his life. Not able to sleep, drinking more and not realizing that his wife Tracy is aware of his personality change, his irritability and more she demands that they separate and that he lives somewhere else. Sandy their daughter is upset and Tommy his son is upset but yet goes about doing things that a rebellious teen does until something happens that changes the everything.
Thinking about his childhood, the cruelties he endured at the hands of the men his mother lived with and dealing with her as an addict, he remembers the past as the present is haunting him with calls from Vinzy, threats from Cellini and a phone frantic phone call from his wife sends him over the edge but who can he blame but himself for what happens next? Author Mark Rubinstein reminds us of what Roddy and Danny did in order to survive and deal with the two men that disappeared and were never found. He reminds us of his friendship with Danny and how it began but he also reminds us of the dangerous things they both did and the fear that it would someday come back and haunt them both so is this why is son winds up in a hit and run accident on his skateboard? Is this a message from Cellini is he does not take out Merko someone else is next?
Angry, ready to bring his Mad Dog out in full force while Tracy is at the hospital with his son, he is watching over Sandy but first he talks with his neighbor Scott Williams who relates something about the accident that lets Roddy know that his was not fly by night hit and run there is much more to why this car hit his son. Reminding himself where it all began years before in Snapper Pond recalling ridding of the body of Kenny and then George, the dinner with Cellini, DiNardo and Vinzky plus the end result with Cellini stating he needed Roddy to take out Merko or else. Even dinner with Danny and recalling old times he does not tell him what is next nor does he tell the mob that they should hire Danny to cook their books claiming he’s a rotten accountant. So, how did Cellini know about Danny’s wife Angela and her job, where Tracy works and his kid’s schools? Things are about to spiral even further out of control when Roddy questions Vinzky who denies knowing anything about Tommy’s hit and run accident but is he credible?
Danny calls Roddy to alert him to the fact that he is going to meet with Cellini and Vinzy about doing the books for them. When Roddy tries to forewarn him, Danny discounts what he’s told and wants to go ahead with the meeting after his wife convinces him to do so. But, when Roddy meets with Vinzy and sets up the meeting things spiral out of control and now the body count rises to more than just one. Roddy seems to rationalize his past, his movements and thinks this will help save his family even if he does not survive. A document written to Tracy explaining it all he thinks will service. But, there is much more that the author shares with us taking the reader inside the minds of both Roddy and Danny as one seems to be rocketing in an upward orbit whereas the other just fall in into a huge sinkhole.
Roddy is methodical in his plan to bring things under his control but what the author throws at him will shock readers and the final result will be a bloodbath that you won’t see coming and the victims expressions will be indelibly imprinted in your mind each time you close your eyes. The graphic descriptions of the many hits are so vivid you can’t help not smelling the stench of death and destruction. When Roddy completes his first two missions and hopes to be done one more strike and he thinks it’s all over. But, when you deal with two mobs that the Albanian mob vs the Italian mob you know that there is going to be retaliation when you least expect it. Traitors, corruption, deceits, betrayals, lies, death tolls that pile up right in front of your eyes and an ending jam packed with rewinds of the past with drug addicts, beatings, cops showing up, arrests, depravity and to fast forward to the present more violence of the same as Roddy Dolan has to decide how to faceoff with Carmine Cellini in a private war that only he can fight win or loose.
Detective First Grade Joe Quartararo and his partner Mike Connor enter the picture after two men are killed in what looks like a mob hit and then the carnage at Geppettos that will haunt him until the day he hangs up his badge. The setting is familiar to me as the Belmont Section of the Bronx is where I visited many friends and even saw Dion and the Belmonts in concert. Added in Lawrence Hospital and the many other places mentioned in the Bronx and diners that are still there, this story hits home for many readers that grew up in the Bronx like I did. Mixed ethnic backgrounds, turf wars with gangs, the Italians and the Albanians till this day in some areas and the final hope that Roddy in his own mind will be able to reunite with his wife and children, his friendship with Danny and Angela still strong he hopes but will he live to see another day and will Carmine win? Will the war continue or will there ever be peace? Life goes on as the author writes in the last line of this outstanding novel and we never know what awaits us. Neither does Roddy or anyone one of us.
Strong plotline, outstanding character descriptions and an ending that might just be the beginning or is the last we will hear of Dr. Roddy Dolan? The ending lets you know that true meaning of MAD DOG Vengeance
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine/MJ network
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