Sometimes we create a persona for ourselves that will not only convince others as to who or what we are but also paint a portrait that will depict the person that we want everyone to see. Each character in this complex murder novel is painted and portrayed within the mind of the main character Dan Fortune so that you the reader can picture the person as if he/she were standing next to you and you had to define that person or identify the person in a lineup. What started out as a mugging of a police officer turned into a case for private detective Dan Fortune who was hired by Pete Vitanza to find his best friend Jo Jo Olsen? Vitanza was learning to become a mechanic and his best friend also a mechanic was missing. Jo Jo was more than obsessed with motors and interesting in Vikings so why would he not turn up for work and why disappear? Pete senses that Jo is in trouble and offers 50 dollars to Fortune to find him. But, Jo Jo’s parents and family would rather have him stay gone and seem unfeeling and uncaring when approached by Fortune staying that he is somewhere but where? The murder of Tani Jones, Jo Jo’s disappearance and the mugging of the patrol and his meeting with Captain Gazzo brings the three incidents to light and the connection might be many things. Did Jo Jo see the mugger? Did Tani see anything that she should not have like the burglar in her apartment or have anything to do with Jo Jo’s disappearance? Gone for three days but will not give it a rest and Fortune becomes a victim who of a huge man who threatens him and demands after attacking him that he needs to let finding Jo Jo go. The man is Swede, Jo Jo’s father and why would he not care about his son?
Meeting Marty his girlfriend we see another side of Dan one that is more straightforward as she is there to center him and focus on her acting and work as a dancer. But, when an old friend comes into a bar where he and Marty are winding down after he night of work, Andy Pappas shows up and things take on a dangerous turn as he and Dan used to prank many when young and the reason why he lost his arm is once again discussed and revealed. Dan works hard and is not rich. Andy is rich and into an illegal racket but exactly what it is has yet to be revealed and his warning to Dan is real letting him know to lay off the Jo Jo case. Why? He and Andy were like two Pirates as youths but creating stories as to how he lost his arm would make him more interesting and hide the harsh reality of his behavior as a youth.
The setting is Chelsea and he for all intense purposes is a loner except for Marty. The author’s descriptions of the area, the slums, the dust, dirt and the dilapidated environment of the apartments, the streets that seem unswept and sets the stage for the next part of the novel as we hear the many voices and learn more about Dan. Then Dan gets angry and determined to find Jo Jo and the two men who savagely beat up Pete who is now in the hospital with broken arms, limbs, his eyes so badly beaten he might lose his sight, he can’t talk and the end result, more murders to come.
Dealing with Andy Pappas you learn that Tani Jones was his mistress and that the robbery in question was a heist of jewelry. But, did he have an airtight alibi for the time of her death? What about Roth his henchman who came along to make sure that Fortune knew to stay out of the way of finding Jo Jo. Did Jo Jo have anything to do with the death of Tani? What about Pappa’s crew? When you learn more about how Fortune thinks and his feelings for Pappas the confrontation with Captain Gazzo reveals more to the reader about why certain information on both sides will not be shared.
When Fortune finally realize how the officer’s mugging came into play we learn that Jo Jo took something from a car that was on Doyle Street and that set off the chain of events that caused him to disappear. When that fact was realized then the murder of Tani and the killer was apparent as author Dennis Lynds explains within this novel the events that led Fortune to help readers understand the chain of events of murder, how to create scenes if they choose to write one and how using character actions and narrative to describe the murder scene and the chain of events is unique and quite distinct within this novel.
Someone was behind what happened to Tani. Someone was behind what happened next to another young girl found murdered. Someone was behind the reason that Jo Jo had to disappear and friendships will forever be destroyed, lies and greed are front and center as Jo Jo’s parents become their own target for Pappas when they decide to take sides for to them the right reason but what will Pappas think when the entire truth comes out?
The officer’s tagging of a car set off the events in motion and then someone taking what he placed on the car created turmoil and fear for many others. The person whose car was tagged now panicked and then set off other events that would endanger Fortune and even those that claimed this person was helping them live a better life.
Within Chelsea you meet many different people and you learn the way of life in this place. No one rats out to the police. Loyalties are injected and some have a different kind of code instilled. On page 20 the author describes the people in detail in Chelsea, their lifestyles, codes and how choices are made. “And in Chelsea people like to be sure about a man, in fact that is what almost cost Jo-Jo Olsen his life, but I did not know that then.” It all leads back to Jo-Jo’s affiliation with the Vikings and where his loyalties lie. Many of the young women within this novel feel that their only chance is to get and have as many men as possible. But, what happens when Nancy Driscoll decides that certain men are not worthy of her time and pride becomes the motive more murder?
Fortune and one other enter a room and confront someone that they thought was honest and had Jo Jo’s interest at heart. Lies, deceptions, betrayals, greed, self preservation, hate, revenge, pride, saving face and just plain thinking the no one would realize the truth, the harsh reality of who engineered the murders and placed Jo-Jo’s life and Fortune in danger was hiding innocently in plain sight.
Fortune, Jo-Jo, the officer, Pete, Gazzo, Magda, Swede, Roth, Pappas and many others reacted within this novel to their own ACT OF FEAR!
Dan Fortune is an outstanding and strong character and the late Dennis Lynds portrays him in the style of Mickey Spillane, Sergeant Friday from Dragnet and Rockford.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine
I dedicate this review to the memory of Dennis Lynds whose voice will never be silenced.