Leonard, Elmore. Out of Sight.

NY: Delacorte, 1996.

Forty-seven-year-old Jack Foley has been a bank robber since the age of eighteen. He’s hit hundreds of banks and is good enough at it that the cops have never given him a derisory nickname — but he’s not so good that he doesn’t get caught.

In fact, he has only spent about eight years total in prison on two earlier occasions, mostly in California, but now Florida’s “three strikes” law has gotten him tucked away for thirty-to-life. And he has no intention of spending the rest of his life behind bars. He knows a group of Cuban prisoners who are digging a tunnel, so he devises his own escape plan to piggyback on theirs, with the help of his old friend, partner, and co-robber, Buddy, who will come and collect him in a stolen car. Buddy brings in a distinctly lower-level ex-con named Glenn, who will provide a cut-out car. And everything goes pretty much as planned — except that they acquire an unplanned ride-along: Karen Sisco, a no-nonsense Deputy U.S. Marshall who arrives in the prison parking lot (she’s only delivering some paperwork) just as the escape attempt goes down. She tries to help control things with the shotgun from her car, but is overpowered, and Buddy takes off with Karen and Foley tucked in the trunk together, where they strike up a peculiarly whimsical conversation.

See, Jack Foley is not really a bad guy. He robs banks, yes, but he’s only violent when it’s absolutely necessity. He can handle himself in the prison yard, too, but he’s mostly laid back and undemanding. And he’s very taken with Karen. In fact, even though the complex plot deals with the inexperienced Glenn’s attempt to make a big score in Detroit, and involves an ex-professional boxer turned manager, and Foley and Buddy get caught up in the deal against their better judgment, and the escaped Cubans are being picked off by the cops, and Karen is picking up clues about the pending plots, . . . despite all that, this turns out to be as much a very strange love story as a crime thriller. As always, the author’s cinematic style and skill with characterization almost guarantees you’ll enjoy yourself. Highly recommended as one of Leonard’s best.

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Published in: on 8 February 2014 at 4:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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