Nick Pierce has spent two decades as head enforcer for the Vice Family. It isn’t a pretty job, but Pierce hasn’t worried about his morals in a long time. At least not until he is forced to deal with a low level mole called Miles. Against his better judgment, instead of killing the kid, Pierce ends up saving him. Now he’s got an attractive and all too willing complication cluttering up his previously straightforward existence.
Miles is searching for his brother, Jayden, who has gotten involved with gang life and drugs. But Miles is in over his head until Pierce comes along and saves him. Now he’ll do whatever it takes to stay close the man, who happens to be the only one to care about him in his whole lousy life. But the Vice family’s stranglehold on the city is crumbling and Pierce finds himself struggling to keep his boss safe and Miles from ending up with a bullet to the head. Retirement and happily ever after aren’t something Pierce ever cared about before Miles and now it might to be too late to have either.
Vice City is something of a conundrum. It’s fairly well written, at times taut and action packed, and it has more than a couple intriguing characters. It’s also somewhat confused about it wants to be and has a plot that seems tired and worn and lingers too long. Let’s start with the good stuff. There is an element of noir about Vice City and despite the fact Pierce is on the wrong side of the law, he’s pragmatic and honest and it’s easy to picture him with a cocked fedora and a cigarette dangling from his lips (the cover plays with this theme as well). The story is gritty and bloody and occasionally it leaves you feeling a bit nauseous. But it does those things well and they never feel too excessive. The violence fits the overall storyline and the very nature of the men and women involved. And there aren’t any good guys here. Everyone in Vice City is this side of shady so when the shooting starts you generally don’t feel too bad. Miles is a little harder to get a read on. He’s a bit of an overeager puppy quick to lust and love, but his devotion to Pierce is solid and sweet. Their romance is far from typical, but it works for them and Pierce is the classic tough guy with a soft heart.
So on to the issues. Vice City never quite settles on what it wants to be. A thriller, a mystery, a romance, a hard-hitting drama, or what. Now a book can easily be all of these things but Vice City failed to smoothly incorporate its themes, so there is a jaggedness to the feel of it that never really goes away. Additionally, the plot, while at times action packed, can also drag along. Because the villain is rather obvious and the course of the story even more so, hitting the various plot points can be somewhat strained. A little tightening here and there and a bit more of action of could have saved even the duller moments. My last niggle is really a silly one but I’m going to mention it anyway. Why give your protagonist the same first name as another major character in the book? It seems unnecessary given all the possible naming choices an author has to play with.
Vice City is the first in a series and despite its issues, it has a lot going for it. I’m more than interested in seeing what the next book brings. The characters in Vice City are fairly strong and there are times when the story hits every mark spot on. When it fails to hit those marks it can get frustrating, but there’s still enough here for most hardcore drama fans to enjoy.
A review copy of this book was provided by DSP Publications.