Quarry in the Middle

Quarry in the Middle by Max Allan Collins (2009, Trade Paperback) for sale online | eBay

Quarry in the Middle is Collins’ ninth book in the Quarry series which began with Quarry in 1976, and includes Quarry’s List, Quarry’s Deal, Quarry’s Cut, Quarry’s Vote, Quarry’s Greatest Hits, The Last Quarry, The First Quarry, Quarry’s Ex, and Wrong Quarry. As detailed in the First Quarry, Quarry is a former Vietnam veteran whose real name is never disclosed to the reader. He comes back, finds his fiancé in bed with another guy, finds that guy working under his car and kicks the jack out, survives a murder trial, and is then recruited by a mysterious figure named the Broker to carry out hits and we don’t mean hits in baseball.

In Quarry in the Middle, Quarry no longer works for the Broker, who is no longer among the living. Rather, Quarry has obtained the Broker’s lists of contacts and he follows the hired assassins, staking them out and figuring out who their prey is. Once he is confident in that information, he offers a deal to the targets, he will, for a price, take out their hitmen and find whoever is the responsible party. I guess everyone needs a career doing something.

Quarry in the Middle is firmly set in small-town (Haydee’s Port) Midwest in the mid-1980’s. Collins reinforces that setting in time and place by his descriptions of the cars used at the time, the music playing on the radio, the posters on the walls in the decrepit bars, and

the hair and outfits worn by the folks peopling this small waste of a town. The women, for instance, often have frizzed hair and pink tube tops.

Quarry follows a man he knows is a mob hitman to a small town with one wreck of a hotel, a run-down main street filled with bars and dives, and a run-down casino by the river. Both the casino and one of the bars on main street are run by guys who are rival and who both have heavy Chicago connections. Quarry is not a secretive a he would like to be as both of the mobbed-up rivals in this town clue into the fact he is not the vetinary drug salesman he pretends to be.

Quarry checks into the same motel as the hitman he is following which leads to some amusing scenes as Quarry comes out of the motel pool after doing laps and sees the hitman sitting next to where Quarry left his rolled-up towel with a nine-millimeter wrapped in it.

This Quarry book is non-stop action as Quarry rolls into one fight after another and into one bed after another. In this book, Quarry is definitely single and definitely on the make.

Collins never lets the reader forget however that all the action is taking place in this small town waste of a town in the 1980’s Midwest and that most of the people in this town have nothing but a bleak future ahead of them. His descriptions of the casinos and clubs and the denizens in them are just right on. Collins also takes the reader step by step through a high-stakes poker game.

All in all, although this book may be nothing more than another chapter in the Quarry series, it is a fun, worthwhile read, firmly in the hard case crime tradition. Expect to finish the book the same day you start it.

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