The Fever Kill by Tom Piccirilli. Crease is a man with a problem. He is an undercover cop who has become fed up with leading a double life and has outed himself to a drug kingpin who swears vengeance. On the run for his life, he flees New York City to the rural Vermont town of his birth. Here he finds a mystery that has haunted him throughout his life. His father, also a cop, shot and killed a child during a botched kidnapping. After this he took to drink and died a broken man. Crease picks at the scar, digging up old wounds and vows to solve the mystery, while the showdown with the drug kingpin and his goons looms near. This was a haunting and very dark noir story that resonated with me, having first hand experiences with alcoholic family members and dead end towns I couldn't wait to leave. It's Piccirlli black humor that keeps this story from becoming too maudlin, and the way he sketches his characters allows the reader to relate to them as human beings rather than cardboard cutouts. He keeps the action moving at a fast pace, and at a little under 200 pages, the book flies by quickly.
The Jugger by Richard Stark. Parker, the master thief and ultimate anti-hero, is on vacation in Miami, when he gets an ominous and out of character letter from retired safe cracker Joe Sheer, who acts as Parker's contact to the criminal underworld. Sheer is in trouble and asks Parker to come to his small town Nebraska home to help. When Parker arrives, Sheer is dead of an apparent heart attack, and cops and crooks alike are lining up to cash in on the fortune they believe Sheer squirreled away. Parker needs to walk a fine line between an out of control cop, a devious fellow thief and the obligatory femme fatale to get to the bottom of the mystery. This is another great Parker story, Stark (aka Donald Westlake) winnows the dialogue to the bone and the story flies by as Parker, cool as a cucumber, pulls himself out of one jam after another.
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