cover image Heartbreaker


Robert Ferrigno. Pantheon Books, $24 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-375-40124-4

As if invigorated by his move to a new publisher, Ferrigno (The House of Latitudes) has produced his best novel in years, a splendidly readable, cinematic thriller set--as is his wont--in Southern California and populated by mean drug dealers, beautiful surfers, ""trust fund babies,"" ""thugs on commission"" and murderers for hire. Ferrigno's reluctant hero is Val Duran, an ex-cop: he's first seen in Miami, where Junior, a vengeful narcotraficante, has Val's oldest friend blown away before Val's eyes. Val flees to L.A., where he finds work as a technical adviser to ""ultra-low budget action movies."" Soon Val also finds Kyle Abbott, ""smart and sinewy, a take-no-prisoners surfer"" from a rich Laguna Beach family. Her arm brushes his, and it's love. Kyle's half-brother, Kilo, conspires with lawless, sadistic Jackie Hendricks and her Gulf War veteran sidekick, Dekker, to kill Kilo's stepmother, Kyle's mother. The ensuing Abbott family intrigue, and Junior's vendetta against Val, set up a landslide of betrayals, hard decisions, secret pacts and violent stratagems. Will Val's passion for Kyle expose her to Junior's wrath? Has Kilo fallen in love with Jackie? Will the dealers bring in the feds? Ferrigno introduces, and updates expertly, all the properties of SoCal noir: film, boats, drug runners, terminal illness, financial chicanery and underwater danger. The array of subplots and mixed motives should entice fans of Elmore Leonard and Ross Thomas. Ferrigno's complex edifice of wrongdoing rises to an ending that feels just right, and shows how far some racy characters will go in search of money--and for love. Agent, Mary Evans. (May)