Delving Deeper by Josh K Stevens

3 Mins read

The second Deuce Walsh thriller follows on from April’s Scratch the Surface. We found that book to be an exciting first instalment to the trilogy, and a Midwestern hardboiled gangster novel with shades of Elmore Leonard and Donald E Westlake.

We noted that Scratch the Surface ended on a cliff-hanger, with Deuce being forced back into the criminal life he thought he had left behind, and forced to do one final job for the Chianti brothers – his erstwhile partners who double-crossed him seven years prior and left him for dead.

Delving Deeper begins just after the last book ended, and it is not long before the extent of Deuce’s task for the Chiantis is revealed. A downtown jewellery store, The Studio, has been acting as a clearing house for stolen goods from all across the state. A big delivery is expected in two weeks, and Deuce has to take both the goods and the cash. On its own it doesn’t sound too difficult, but the owner its tight with corrupt local cops, and there will be a heavy presence when the delivery occurs.

If this is going to work, Deuce knows he will need two things: fire-power, and the right people working with him. There are only a few people Deuce can trust for a job like this, and he can’t afford any mistakes. The Chiantis have let it be known it won’t just be his ass in the fire if things go south. Deuce’s heavily pregnant girlfriend Caitlin and her brother Colm will also be in danger. The problem is Deuce’s gang broke up seven years ago after the double cross, after he has got to locate them and persuade them to get back in the game.

First stop is with Nando, the elderly Italian-American who acted as a kind of consigliore to the Midwestern mob. Nando can supply the weapons and has contacts for his old crew. Next, Allix Valentine, the only member of the old gang on an equal footing with Deuce. She was beautiful and ruthless and there was a touch of sexual tension between them. Today Allix needs money fast to pay off the Russian mob, and so only too happy to help. Flip Reyes turns out to be a bust – he’s has found God and has a family. Finishing off the crew are the muscle, Junior; explosives expert,Jackie; and all-round badass Gia.

The story rattles along to its explosive conclusion and Deuce and the gang try to find a way to come out of it with the loot and their lives. But as the planning progresses they discover the Chiantis have one final surprise in store for them.

It’s definitely worth reading Scratch the Surface before Delve Deeper. Though it can be read as a standalone, the author is light on exposition and backstory, which keeps the story flowing but leaves out new readers. The wise-cracking Deuce of the first book is largely absent, replaced with a more determined and ruthless version. At first this change is a little disappointing, but as the story progresses the author’s decision proves right. Deuce could not continue to be the loving family man, repentant for past discretions, and at the same time the ruthless gangster, ready to kill or be killed. I am fascinated to see how this plays out over the final book.

Some of the minor characters are a little clichéd. There really ought to be some kind of law limiting the number of beautiful ball-busting female sidekicks that can appear in any given book. There have already been two too many in this series.

Delve Deeper is a worthy successor to Scratch the Surface, and Stevens shows himself to be an author not just content to take the easy choices, but ready and able to build upon what has gone before.

For more American indie hardboiled crime why not try Rumrunners by Eric Beetner, also published by 280 steps.

280 Steps

CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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