"Closing the Circle" by Spokane-area crime fiction author Frank Zafiro and his hard boiled partner in crime Jim Wilsky brings the trilogy that started with "Blood on Blood" and continued in "Queen of Diamonds" to an epic finale that is sure to satisfy both fans of the previous books and readers who are new to the series.
All three books are told from the point of view of two different first-person protagonists in alternating chapters. This slightly unusual structure adds to the fun for readers. Events are sometimes described from both characters' perspectives. Sometimes, each character discovers something that is crucial to the plot in completely different ways. Crime fiction fans will probably enjoy seeing how, for example, someone with a criminal background and someone with some law enforcement training approach the same mystery and the same clues in different ways.
In each book in the series, two men run afoul of the mysterious femme fatale Ania Kozak. In "Blood on Blood", she came between two half-brothers who were searching for extremely valuable diamond earrings. She was up to her old tricks again in "Queen of Diamonds" In "Closing the Circle," the two male protagonists are hot on her trail and trying to make her finally face the consequences of her evil deeds. Will she be able to use her con artist skills and feminine wiles to outwit them or will the circle finally be closed on her?
Parts of "Closing the Circle" are told from the perspective of John Pearse, a no-nonsense insurance investigator who just wants the diamonds back. Other parts of the novel are told from the point of view of a Polish gangster named Andros Krol who some readers will remember as a supporting character from "Blood on Blood." Krol's boss wants him to kill Ania and bring back both the diamonds and money she stole at the end of the first novel.
Wilksy and Zafiro must have been eating their Wheaties when they fleshed out their protagonists for the new book. Krol was just an intimidating hit man originally, but revealing more about he thinks and feels adds unexpected nuances that make it hard to not like the guy at least a little even as he uses violence and intimidation to get information out of sympathetic supporting characters. Pearse is a tough-talking detective in the grand tradition that goes back at least to Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, but he has enough fun quirks to keep from seeming like a stock character.
Fans of Zafiro's other novels, such as the popular River City series, will love Pearse. He is intelligent, highly pragmatic and he has a tendency to drop fun procedural details that reflect his military background and his familiarity with how police officers think. He is an interesting good guy in the sense that he genuinely does not care about bringing Ania or Krol to justice. He is not amoral He just isn't a cop or a typical private investigator-type character.
Readers may not love Krol, but they will definitely respect him as he methodically goes about trying to get revenge for his boss with some help from his more charming sidekick Jan. He is a very scary guy, but what really makes him scary is that he is much smarter than he appears. This makes him kind of like Sylvester Stallone's portrayal of Carter in the remake of "Get Carter." He is relentless in the pursuit of his goals, and this would make him seem almost admirable if one of those goals wasn't killing Ania.
The plot of "Closing the Circle" is fast-paced, suspenseful and plausible enough to help readers willfully suspend disbelief during the fantastic action scenes. Somehow, Zafiro and Wilsky pull off the trick of bringing back many supporting characters from the previous novels in ways that completely make sense while keeping the book accessible for people who either haven't read the other books yet or don't remember where they saw them before.
Fans of the series will have many fun "hey, they brought that guy back." moments, but those parts don't disrupt the flow of the novel for people who, for example, don't remember that a police sergeant Pearse interrogates early in his investigation was established already as a friend of one of the protagonists from "Blood on Blood". That is just one of many ways that the book works on multiple levels.
"Closing the Circle" is a very fun caper story that will appeal to mystery lovers, crime fiction buffs and anyone who loves a good heist movie. It is also an examination of evil and things people are willing to do out of loyalty, or simply for money. Saying more would spoil the plot. Suffice it to say that Wilsky and Zafiro may get their readers thinking about a wide range of topics such as gender politics, how lying can sometimes be good, and differences between the law and justice even as they sit on the edges of their seats during one of those terrific fight scenes.
"Closing the Circle" is currently available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle ebook editions. Crime fiction lovers in the greater Spokane area may also order the paperback edition from local retailers such as Auntie's Bookstore.