The Sweet and the Dead

Milton Burton, Author . St. Martin's Minotaur/Dunne $23.95 (262p) ISBN 978-0-312-34310-1

Imagine the classic heist movie The Asphalt Jungle moved to 1970 Biloxi, Miss., and you get the feel for Burton's steamy, low-down second novel (after The Rogues' Game ). Former Dallas deputy sheriff Manfred Eugene "Tush Hog" Webern goes undercover to help fellow lawmen break up a loose gang of Southern thugs dubbed the Dixie Mafia. Webern retired under a cloud, so he knows he'll be accepted by the gangsters, headed by psychopath Jasper Sparks and made up of a collection of Runyonesque characters, including hit man Raymond "Hardhead" Weller and former heavyweight contender "Slops" Moline, each with a specific criminal talent. Burton skillfully describes Webern's cool, companionable socializing with crooks and murderers at the notorious Sam Lodke's Gold Dust Lounge as the lawman ingratiates himself with Sparks. Most of the novel involves the detailed planning of a heist—assembling a reliable gang, acquiring equipment—and Webern's affair with former federal prosecutor Nell Bigelow, daughter of a Delta millionaire. Atmospheric vignettes slow the pace, but the book picks up speed after Webern finally identifies the shadowy forces that double-cross the gang and set him up. (July)

Reviewed on: 05/08/2006
Release date: 07/01/2006
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