There’s the old saying, “Man plans, and God laughs.”
As he plans a most unorthodox strategy to attain lifelong financial security, Dr. Joseph Peck, ophthalmologist and narrator in Stephen Kronwith’s sharp, witty and wildly entertaining novel Lover Boy, reflects on hearing some weird sounds in the night, “Now that I think about it … I’m more and more convinced they were the reverberations of The Big Guy himself — laughing His Almighty ass off.”
Peck says his story will “detail the consequences of an exceptionally unholy trinity of obsessions — sex, greed and sex … and incorporate murder, betrayal and comic relief to spice things up.” The author delivers emphatically on those claims.
DYNAMIC AND QUIRKY CHARACTER COMBINATIONS
Far be it for the good doctor to hatch said scheme by himself. Actually, it is the initial brainchild of the ravishingly beautiful Anna Franklin, whose daughter is a patient of Peck. Anna learns that her billionaire husband Jonathan is planning a divorce after the New Year that will deprive her of a lofty inheritance, leaving her with a measly million or so a year.
She discovers Peck’s lifelong best friend happens to be retired mob boss Anthony Esposito. Using her finely crafted art of seduction, Anna convinces Peck to reach out to his ex-mafia friend and arrange a hit on her husband before the New Year, thus squelching plans for the divorce and ensuring her huge payday.
Envisioning a hefty payout for himself — as well as a lifetime of erotic bliss with Anna — Peck contacts Anthony, who knows just the guy to handle the job: Sammy Vivino, a 73-year-old retired hitman for the Esposito family, better known in crime circles as Lover Boy.
LOVE AND LET DIE?
Vivino, who earned the nickname by always having women on each arm and at his beck and call, is a perfectionist (he’d have to be) who accounts for every detail and every scenario. It’s marvelous to watch him think, anticipating how he will cover his tracks and ensure a successful outcome.
Jonathan Franklin, in his expansive backyard, makes a nightly routine of hitting a bucket of golf balls into an adjacent lake. That’s all Lover Boy needs to know to reintroduce one of his signature kills: death by golf ball.
Author Kronwith creates characters who are riotous, intelligent, and, in their own ways, relatable and often lovable. Perhaps none more so than the troubled and attractive Jane Rieger, a detective assigned to close the case of Franklin’s seemingly routine death by accident, only to find herself with a murder investigation.
CLEVER NODS TO CLASSIC WIT AND WISDOM
Peck advises that men should consider the story “a cautionary tale, a public service reminder that when making critical, life-altering decisions, let your brain dictate your actions — not your genitals.” For women, he says they will “need to decide if the actions of the formidable, female characters are worthy of your acclaim — or denunciation. Or possibly both.”
The book is sprinkled with references to fine literature, as both Anna and Jane are well read and often able to insert their knowledge into the dialogue. At one point, during a press conference with Jane at the podium, she steals the moment by embarrassing an unctuous financial reporter. The reporter tries to win over his media brethren by quoting Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes of “suspecting no one and everyone.” Jane corrects the exact quote and points out that the words of wisdom actually are from the mouth of Inspector Clouseau, of Pink Panther movie notoriety.
LIGHT AND BREEZY, DELIGHTFULLY SLEAZY
Kronwith has written a magnificent, comedic crime caper with a plot as tight as the plan itself to kill Franklin and run away with his billions. The story develops at an easy, brisk, enjoyable pace, with new elements and revelations surfacing throughout.
For all the machinations, perhaps the ultimate story outcome is best captured in another literary quote interjected by Kronwith from William Shakespeare: “To do a great right, do a little wrong.”
Lover Boy was featured as one of our 16 Favorites From 2020 That You Probably Never Heard Of.