Written by Mark Rubinstein — Roddy Dolan has it good. His career as a surgeon is rock solid, his private practice is flourishing and his marriage to Tracy is dynamite. The chemistry is still there after 20 years of marriage, and it’s a relationship built as much on honesty and respect as it is lust. They have a fantastic home on the grounds of an exclusive country club. The only worry is their son Tommy, who is coming into adolescence and getting into trouble at school. Roddy’s not too worried though, he thinks Tommy will be fine, after all he was a tearaway when he was younger. In fact, he was much worse.
Back in high school, Roddy hung out with Danny Burns. He was an angry kid, his father was serving a sentence in Attica for armed robbery, and his mom’s boyfriend made it pretty clear he wasn’t wanted. He relied upon the more sensible Danny to help keep his anger in check and stop him making the wrong choices. That wasn’t always possible however, and after cutting a kid’s ear off in a fight, he got the nickname Mad Dog.
His criminal behaviour ramped up after that, and eventually he was arrested for robbing an electronics warehouse. His buddy Kenny ‘Snake Eyes’ McGuirk got away. Given a choice by a perceptive judge between hard time and the army, Roddy chose the latter. The scare of prison, and the boundaries and focus of the Army proved to be enough to set Roddy on the right path, and the rest is history.
Or so Roddy thinks until Kenny comes back into his life with an offer too good for Roddy and Danny, now his accountant, to turn down. Roddy and Danny agree to back Kenny as silent partners in his new restaurant business, each putting in $100,000. For a while, things are going great, the numbers are good and the place is always packed. Months go by, and now it’s losing money, people Roddy recognises as obviously wise guys are being comped, and Kenny seems edgy and distracted. The reason for this becomes clear when a loan shark turns up, revealing that he loaned Kenny his original start-up money. Now, Roddy and Danny owe him. Roddy plan is to stall him but when his family are threatened, he knows he’s either got to rediscover that Mad Dog inside or risk losing everything important to him.
The first part of this book fell a little flat for me. The author is too keen to emphasise just how well Roddy has done and how much he’s got to lose. There is too much repetition, and the way the plot is going to develop is signposted a little too much. Mad Dog House is saved by the introduction of the loan shark. He’s a thoroughly nasty character and the author writes him very well. From here on in, the book whizzes by and is a much better read. As their desperate plan develops, the differences between the three childhood friends are revealed, and each ones’ actions and motivations felt very real to me. I would have enjoyed this book more with a little editorial pruning during the first third.
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CFL Rating: 3 Stars