Monday, December 29, 2008

Tony Spinosa’s "The Fourth Victim"

Reed Farrel Coleman, Brooklyn born and raised, is the former Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America. He has written ten novels in three series including two under his pen name Tony Spinosa, including the recently released The Fourth Victim.

Coleman applied the “Page 99 Test” to Spinosa's The Fourth Victim and reported the following:
“You’re a suspicious bastard.” [says Joe Serpe]

“Just my nature, but I never let my suspicions get ahead of the facts,” Healy said. “I got pretty far by following the evidence where it took me, not by where I thought it should go.”

“One thing, though, before we get too wrapped up in this. I was thinking last night that the money and the condo are all very interesting, but that’s not why Monaco was killed. He was robbed and murdered because he drove an oil truck down the wrong dark street in the wrong neighborhood on the wrong night, not because he owned a condo he couldn’t swing or he had a bag full of cash.”


Ford Madox Ford must have read Tony Spinosa’s The Fourth Victim, because I doubt there are any pages in any of the novels I’ve written under my own name or Tony’s that so perfectly lays out the book’s major dilemma. First, a bit of a summary recap:

Four home heating oil drivers on Long Island have recently been robbed and murdered as they made evening deliveries in rough neighborhoods. The fourth victim, Rusty Monaco, is an ex-NYPD detective. Monaco was a racist, violent bastard, but had been deeply involved with the book’s co-protagonists, Joe Serpe and Bob Healy, also former NYPD detectives who are partners in their own oil delivery business. However, their relationships with the late Det. Monaco were vastly different. Monaco had once saved Serpe’s life during a drug raid. Bob Healy, ex of Internal Affairs, had tried unsuccessfully to have Monaco thrown off the force. Serpe feels he owes it to Monaco to pay back the debt and Healy, as Serpe’s friend and partner, feels obliged to help.

Here on page 99, they’re discussing the less obvious possible motives for the murders. In fact, since Monaco’s death, there’s been a fifth robbery-homicide. Healy and Serpe suspect the fifth incident might be a copycat crime, but the really interesting part of this page is that—although they don’t yet know it—they actually have a better understanding of how things will eventually play out.

“What do you mean, maybe?” Serpe asked.

“I mean maybe. You weren’t the only one doing some thinking last night. After I spoke with Blades [a current NYPD IAB detective], I tried to get some things straight in my head. Look, Alberto Jimenez [the fifth victim] was killed because he had cash in his pocket and he was a target of convenience, but his murder wasn’t directly connected to the other four, not really.”

“Yeah, okay, I’m with you so far.”

“I was thinking that maybe the other four murders were connected, but not in the obvious ways. Sure, on the surface they all seem like robberies where the perpetrator killed the victims so there’s be no witnesses. But I got this crazy idea in my head that maybe they were homicides first and—”

“—robberies second,” Serpe said.

“Right. That there was only one intended target and that the other robberies and homicides were window dressing done just to throw off the cops.”

It’s a great idea the two ex-detectives are working on, but at this point in the novel, I doubt they could have had any notion of where this theory might take them and who would lead them there.
The Fourth Victim is published by Bleak House Books and is available in three editions: Collectors Numbered, Cloth and Trade paper.

Learn more about the book and author at Reed Farrel Coleman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue