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Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite
In Payback by Steve Bassett, in 1946, the right arm of a third victim is found in the Newark city dump. Lieutenant Nick Cisco and his partner Kevin McClosky discover all three victims were connected to an American-German Bund, with sympathies for the Nazi regime and Hitler. As they struggle to solve the murders, elsewhere in Newark they become entangled in a dark web of corruption, violence, and greed. A priest races to save an abused 6-year-old from the clutches of an abusive couple set on adopting her. The emotional and physical scars the child bears seem a worthy reason to save the child from her fate. An abusive husband, with connections to the Mob, faces the ultimate payback from his battered wife, Grace. As she plans her revenge, Grace will stop at nothing to make her husband pay, while at the same time enjoying her affair with a married cop. There is also racial hostility growing on the streets of Newark when a respected war veteran seeks revenge on a local racist. As the two experienced cops try to solve the murders before a fourth victim is found, will the streets of Newark find peace and harmony or are the divisions and hate buried too deep?
Payback by Steve Bassett is definitely not a book for bedtime reading. From the first chapter, the bar of tension and suspense was set very high and I was definitely not disappointed as the story progressed; it just got better and better for me. Each subplot is strong and interesting and these have been effortlessly entwined together. Every character is interesting, memorable, realistic and with a detailed backstory. I thought the way the backstories were subtly included in the dialogue and narrative told us so much about the characters and gave their actions believability. Although the book is written in a pulp fiction style and skips from one timeframe and story to another, and introduces new characters continually, there was no confusion with the plot. The themes of racism, religion, violence and child abuse were written extremely well and authentically. This is a stand-alone novel written by a remarkably talented author.