|Crissa Stone is a thief and a very accomplished one. She plans her heists in exquisite detail and carries them out with precision. She is, however, tired of the life but needs one more significant bankroll to get her lover out of prison and provide for her ten-year-old daughter whom she had placed with her sister but now feels capable of rearing herself. What was to be her last crime was the robbery of a series of ATMs. The job went horribly wrong when her accomplices get in a fight over the take and ended up killing each other.
On a different front, retired mobster Benny Roth has decided that sufficient time has passed since the spectacular Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport in 1978 that the money and valuables, spoils of that crime, could be safely laundered. Benny knows where the loot is hidden, but as a sixty-two year old man with a heart condition he realizes that he needs help to recover the bounty. He has hooked up with a much younger woman to whom he is committed but Marta has no criminal experience so she could be considered more of a liability than an asset.
Benny and Crissa together make a formidable team. As with most good things there is always a down side. Though Benny has severed his connections with the mob, they have not forgotten him, nor the hidden items from the Lufthansa job. Benny and Crissa realize this hidden danger but they both need the goods. Benny, in addition, needs to retain his pride of what he accomplished as a gangster.
Though reminiscent of some of Donald Westlake's novels, there is a harder edge to Kings of Midnight. Crissa's plan to rob the ATMs is eerily similar to Westlake's Bank Shot in which Dortmunder and his crew rob a bank that is located in a semi trailer because they can hitch the bank up to the semi and drive it away. But Westlake's characters are inept while Crissa is a professional, and, unfortunately, people die in some not so pleasant ways. The presence of blood and gore in Kings of Midnight is a reality.
The interplay between Benny and Crissa allows the author to reflect on some basic life truths. Although their methods are somewhat different, both are thieves who live off other people's money. Their philosophy is to spend what they steal and when the money runs out they steal more. As Benny astutely observes, "The game is fixed. Nobody gives you anything. You gotta take it." What he fails to consider is that some people actually do a legal job to earn a salary.
The setting for this tale is the metropolitan New York City area. The author lives in New Jersey so he has reason to know the territory well which he demonstrates in this novel. As most metropolitan areas, there are certain ethnic neighborhoods as well as locations where crime is a little more common than others. Readers are treated to a mini lesson on specific areas of the city.
Both Crissa and Benny are likeable enough, though Crissa demonstrates abilities in common with many female protagonists in a life that requires above average physical strength. She incurs injuries that ought to incapacitate her yet she is able to soldier on. Both she and Benny make choices that land them in big trouble, which, of course, furthers the plot, but with their intelligence they should have had the sense to make a more reasonable choice. Be prepared to suspend your disbelief for the sake of the story. Stroby does permit his main protagonist to suffer some life changing events, making them more realistic, though at the same time these events may provide fodder for a future novel.