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The Punishing Game (A Frank Boff Mystery Book 2) Kindle Edition
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
There is a tart humor to the story, mostly in the way people respond to Boff, and the plot has a logical structure, which is almost but not quite resolved. (Whatever happened to Ricci?) I enjoyed the book with its quirky characters (Boff's mother is a gem!). It is a light, fast, and not too bloody read.
So when I recently finished reading (and reviewing) a terrific book called "The Hurting Game" by Nathan Gottlieb, I was really hoping that the second (and third) titles that I had would be as good as that first one.
Well, guess what? By the time I got to the third chapter in "The Punishing Game," it was very clear that lightning was going to strike twice in the same place. Early in the book, the main character, Frank Boff, was a minor player and Danny Cullen, the boxer, was the main character. As the story progresses, though, Boff becomes more important to the storyline.
Having the same characters in books that comprise a series always makes the reader feel comfortable. Continuity of the characters gives the reader that feeling of knowing who the players are. But here in The Punishing Game, Gottlieb introduces new characters who immediately become an organic part of the story as well as having a perfect fit with the previous "cast members." Right away, they "belong" here and fit smoothly right into the storyline.
The central character, Frank Boff, is one of those rare people in the world of fiction who seem to take on a life of their own, a life almost too realistic to believe. But believe we do. He's the kind of character who is at once despicable and lovable. We know that he used to work for the DEA and gave it up to become a private investigator who now works what he calls the "dark side." He now makes a living as an investigator for criminal defense lawyers who are dedicated to getting their accused clients - drug dealers, murderers, and the like -free from all charges. Where Frank used to work to put them behind bars, he now works even harder to keep them from prison.
We're not quite sure why he does this, but he does enough so that we still like him and even respect him. We feel that way because Nat Gottlieb has crafted this character to have a deep sense of what is right and what is wrong. The books make a concerted effort to deliver to us that side of his character that makes him a good guy - despite our mixed feelings about what constitutes good and bad. Add to that Frank is also neurotic and completely single-minded about what his goals are at any given moment. There is also quite a lot to like about Boff, especially his warmth toward kids and older people. We also get a chance in The Punishing Game to meet Boff's typical Jewish mother, who still lives in The Bronx and still runs the family "candy store" (with a shotgun behind the counter).
Great storylines, beautifully crafted characters and the complete capture of the locations where it all takes place make Nat Gottlieb's books the kind that get that special place on your bookshelf - that place where the great books go. The ones that you know will be read over and over, whenever you feel the call for a great story. Even ones that you've already been through.
So, at the risk of not telling too much of the story so that it spoils it for you, all I'm going to say is that you really need to get one of these books. Read it and you'll understand why Frank Boff is right up there at the top of the list of my favorite thriller characters. You'll thank me for telling you to do this before you've even read the first few chapters.
I mean, have I ever lied to you before?
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