Mike Lawson’s latest Joe DeMarco thriller opens with a Mafia guy saying to his boss, “We got a problem.”
And indeed they do. The problem is Gino DeMarco, Joe’s father, who is a hit man for the mob. Gino’s murder by a compromised rookie cop under orders from the mob sets up the rest of the book, which fast forwards twenty years. Joe DeMarco, grown up and working for a U.S. Senator as a red fire axe (someone who “fixes” situations for the senator), finds out, from an old and dying mobster, who killed his father and why.
Recently published by Grove Atlantic, House Reckoning is Lawson’s ninth Joe DeMarco book. I haven’t read any of the previous books, but this one seems a good one to start with because it takes us back to the protagonist’s beginnings. It tells us how his Irish Catholic mother and Italian Catholic father meet, how Gino ends up working for the mob, and how and why he is killed.
House Reckoning is full of tough guys you don’t want to know, and that includes DeMarco’s employer, a hard-drinking Bostonian with questionable ethics and little compassion. Then, on the dark side of the law, there’s the Mafia boss Carmine Taliaferro. In the opening scene, he has just dumped 20 small fish into his fish tank and watched, with a smile, his other fish immediately attack and kill them. He then turns to his confederate and says, “Dammit, Enzo. It’s really too bad about DeMarco. It just breaks my heart.” What’s too bad is that he’s planning to get rid of Gino Demarco. Carmine Taliaferro is as deadly as his fish.
The rookie cop who kills Gino is as cold as Carmine, but he’s on the right side of the law. Chillingly, he is police chief of New York City twenty years after killing Joe’s father, and he’s trying to advance into a more prestigious position as Joe plans his revenge .
Lucky for Joe, he has a couple of good friends who save him from disaster a few times. Unlucky for Joe, he has both the mob and the police hunting for him, and his informant double-crosses him at every turn.
House Reckoning is a complicated and fast-paced page turner with twists and turns that keep us guessing what happens next as the action takes Joe from the nation’s capitol to New York and to New Jersey. Watching Joe on his own trying to avenge his father with no safe haven to turn to is definitely a nail biter
Author Mike Lawson, a former senior civilian executive with the U.S. Navy, paints a realistic picture of the sinister Mafia world and of people willing to do whatever it takes – bad and good — to attain high levels of power and wealth. You can read the inner workings of their minds as they lie and cover up and work out what best benefits them. Nothing else matters, and the lives of others are meaningless.
Do you enjoy reading thrillers? If so, which ones and why?