Robert Silverberg is a successful science-fiction and fantasy author. His novellas “Nightwings” and “Born with the Dead” are among five works that gained industry acclaim as Hugo award winners. However, Silverberg cut his teeth on “non-fiction” fantasies and crime noir in his youth. These stories, penned under names like Dan Malcolm and Ray McKensie, were published by zines like “Guilty” and “Trapped”. One of those, the novella length “Blood on the Mink” (1960), was reprinted by Hard Case Crime in 2012 along with the shorts “One Night of Violence” and “Dangerous Doll”.
“Blood on the Mink” is a well-crafted peek at the inner-workings of the Philadelphia syndicate. The book, written in first-person, introduces us to a federal agent who's donned the disguise of Vic Lowney, a successful California mob boss who's traveling to Philly to meet with a mobster named Klaus. Lowney, who's never met Klaus before, has an agenda of infiltrating Klaus' ring and nabbing a counterfeiter. Klaus' agenda is to pitch the counterfeiting idea to Lowney in hopes of selling him the fake currency for a quarter on a dollar. Easy, right?
Things get rather complicated quickly. First, Lowney is approached by a rival New York mobster named Litwhiler. He wants Lowney to cooperate with him and steal the counterfeiter with the promise that he'll sell currency to Lowney at a reduced rate. Further, Lowney is then approached by Klaus' stacked lover with a pitch to kill Klaus, steal the counterfeiter and make a fast break. Lowney, while carefully balancing his government work with pleasure, navigates a series of twists and turns that soon incorporates another rival mobster named Chavez and the counterfeiter's beautiful daughter, Szekely.
With all of these intricate allegiances and deceivers, is the book too dense to enjoy? No. Definitely not. Typically I struggle with a cast this robust with multiple threads. At 157-pages of large font, Silverberg takes it easy on his reader (and himself) by sticking to the facts and creating a brisk, easy read. “Blood on the Mink” shines with just enough action, dialogue and babes. In fact, I liked it so much that I read it in one sitting. While not the literary value of a Keene, Whittington or Brewer, this author sticks to the basics and delivers an excellent crime paperback. Nothing more, nothing less. Recommended.
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