Wallace Stroby, . . St. Martin's Minotaur, $24.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-312-30034-0

Stroby's dazzling debut stars the Grieving Ex-Cop, adds the Old Girl Friend Now Married to a Mobster, stirs in A Little Favor to Help Out a Best Friend—and still manages to wake us up like the slap of a wave on the New Jersey shore. When his best boyhood buddy comes to former state trooper and widower Harry Rane with a problem involving an abortive drug deal and a nasty local mobster, Harry offers to act as an honest broker, but new problems quickly arise. The mobster has been married for the last three years to a woman who 19 years before was forced to leave town by her parents after getting pregnant by Harry. So the stage is set for lots of angst and melodrama—made not only bearable but actually fascinating, largely because Stroby has created several instantly credible characters and has made them walk over his familiar terrain as if they were the first people ever to have done so. It also helps that his many action scenes are original and exciting, and that anyone who's ever been to Asbury Park or taken the ferry from New Jersey to Delaware will feel right at home. (Feb. 28)