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Robert Leuci

Robert Leuci
London 1996

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In this low-down, dirty tale of bad guys and worse cops, Robert Leuci gives life to a well-worn theme with dark humour, an eye for the bizarre, and snappy, wise-cracking dialogue. The author, himself an ex-undercover detective, obviously knows his stuff and his years on the beat lend the action a razor-sharp ring of authenticity. But this is more than just a police procedural and Leuci’s talent for spinning an engrossing, often funny yarn holds it all together excellently.

Renegades revolves around three boyhood friends, once as close as brothers, but now on opposing sides in the crime war. Two, Detectives Jimmy Burns and Dante O’Donnell, are now partnered in the Organised Crime Task Force, while the third, JoJo Paradiso, has gone into the family business and has become the powerful underboss of the Paradiso Mafia clan. The inevitable collision course between the old friends is set when the two cops are assigned to the surveillance team gathering evidence against the Paradiso family.

JoJo, though, has more than just the Feds to worry about. There’s the secret drug deal he’s setting up behind his ailing capo father’s back; there’s the growing power struggle within the family’s ranks; but worst of all is the news from a well-placed police informant that a traitor close to the heart of the family is feeding information to the Feds. When the power struggle explodes into a brutal underworld war, the identities of the betrayers on both sides are revealed with fatal repercussions. As the story moves relentlessly towards a perfectly orchestrated finale, the lines between loyalty and betrayal are redrawn.

Robert Leuci does a nice job of exploring the grey areas between honesty and corruption, loyalty and treachery. As the tale unfolds it becomes more and more difficult to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys and unsettling parallels are drawn between the two sides of law and disorder. With Leuci there are no comfortable moral absolutes.

Although the Mafioso-Cop territory is overly familiar, Renegades has enough spark in it to ignite a story which could have been another trudge through multiple shootings and mounds of linguini. Admittedly some of the dialogue verges on clichéd Wiseguy speak – take this for a cheesy piece of Mafia wisdom by which to live and die: ‘Look after your friends but take care of your enemies…’ But on the whole Renegades is good, dirty, double-dealing fun.

Reviewed by Jon Mitchell


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