We hope you enjoy this book review by Douglas R. Cobb.

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Count yourselves among the fortunate if youíre a lover of mysteries and you get the chance to read the thrilling, gritty debut thriller by Anthony Gagliano, Straits of Fortune. It will captivate you with its suspenseful page-turning action and will leave you wanting to check out more from Gagliano in the future. He demonstrates a deft handling of characterization and skillful writing that youíd expect from the likes of a Ross MacDonald or Dashiell Hammett. Yes, thatís high praise for any author, let alone the debut novel of an author; but, Gagliano delivers the goods, and his hero, the personal trainer Jack Vaughn, is a likable character that hopefully weíll see in sequels to this in the coming years.

Jack Vaughn was a New York City cop, but after a tragic shooting accident where he and a fellow cop exchanged fire and the other cop was killed by Vaughn, he relocated to start life over again in sunny Miami, Florida. As a personal trainer, heís met all types of people, one of them being Vivian, the gorgeous but somewhat wild and uninhibited daughter of the millionaire businessman, Colonel Andrew Patterson. Though Jack has not seen Vivian for a while and has moved on, he gets offered a strange job out of the blue from the Colonel.

All he has to do is sink a boat - a very expensive boat, a yacht with a dead body on it that he says is "a cheap pornographer," Randy Matson, who made a dirty movie of himself and another man having sex with Vivian and who tried to blackmail the family. Patterson tells Jack he has the film if Jack would like to see it, and that Vivian shot Matson to death aboard the yacht. Heíll give Vaughn $100,000 if Jack agrees to sink the boat, $50,000 up front and the balance when the job is done.

Vaughn is, of course, very suspicious about the whole offer, and believes that there must be a lot more to the story than the Colonel is letting him know about. He also wonders why Patterson doesnít have his bodyguard/flunkie sink the boat instead of himself, a steroid-created Vietnam vet by the name of Williams, who has a sadistic streak a mile wide, doesnít like Vaughn, and who seems as if heíd take great pleasure in doing such a job. Jack even begins to think that maybe Vivian didnít shoot Matson at all, but that the Colonel might have had Williams do it to get out of having to pay the pornographer any blackmail.

On board the ship, Vaughn discovers he got rooked into doing a two-for-one deal - instead of one dead body on the yacht, Matsonís, there are two. The second dead body is that of the second man in the film, and heís been shot in the back, as if he was trying to run away. Jack definitely knows what heís been asked to do stinks to high heaven, but he sinks the yacht, anyway, and heís about to row back to the mainland in his kayak. Thatís when the worst of his troubles really begin.

Straits of Fortune is a great debut novel from Anthony Gagliano youíre sure to love. Jack Vaughn, trapped by circumstances and the undeniable attraction of making $100,000, finds himself locked up at Krome, the detention center where the Coast Guard puts people who they catch trying to enter the country illegally or smuggle illegal drugs - or people - into the United States. They accuse Jack of smuggling people into Florida from Cuba, though they have no actual proof of his doing this, and try to hold him there until he has a trial. Jack, though, has other things on his mind - like getting revenge on Williams, who shoots at him from a speedboat after Vaughn sinks the yacht - learning more about the Colonelís involvement, and that of Vivian and her brother, Nick - and, of course, collecting the remaining $50,000.

If youíre looking for gritty, escapist, fast-paced action with an appealing hero, you canít go wrong in picking up Straits of Fortune and checking it out. Itís an enjoyable read for the beach or anywhere, and is a book that should earn Anthony Gagliano many fans.



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