My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In The Buffalo Job, the fifth effort by Mike Knowles in his Wilson series, Knowles shows he’s not growing soft, or even slightly sympathetic to Wilson, the former mob enforcer who just can’t quite get his life back together. Exhaustion, pain, mayhem and death travel with Wilson. Corpses and battered people litter the way behind him.
Wilson has a weak moment and finishes a job stealing a work of art for some young gangsters after they failed at the same job that he’d planned for them. One was a nephew to an Albanian mob boss, Pyrros Vogli. Vogli decides Wilson is hungry for work and “insists” that he manage a job for him stealing one of the rarest articles in the world, a Stradivarius violin that could soon be out of his reach.
Wilson has to assemble a crew in just a few days, babysit the mobster’s nephew as one of the crew, cross the Canadian/US border to Buffalo, and steal the violin either from a vault or a busy concert hall. While he concerns himself with the loyalty of his thrown-together crew, he also has to worry that the Albanian mob in Buffalo may find out he’s on their turf, or worse maybe trying to steal the violin too. What could go wrong?
Knowles propels his story forward with multi-dimensional characters, terse dialog, spare descriptions and unflinching violence. Scenes crackle with authenticity, as tense moments explode into ferocious action. Wilson is a protagonist who will make you cringe, even as you root for him to succeed.
Knowles has put a Canadian pin on the hardboiled crime fiction map. His dialog is reminiscent of Andrew Vachss, his brutal intensity of Ken Bruen, and his violence-infused plotting of Charlie Huston. Those are three pretty good reasons to read him if you like your crime fiction dark.
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