Review

Forced Out

by Stephen Frey

Forget everything you ever knew about the work of Stephen Frey
prior to his latest novel. Frey, the author of a popular series of
financial thrillers, takes his career in an entirely different
direction with FORCED OUT, which may be his best book to
date.

Here, Frey abandons Wall Street for the back streets. Jack Barrett
was sitting on top of the world at one time. Working as a talent
scout for the New York Yankees, he was looking forward to a
well-deserved ending to an honorable career, a great pension and a
long retirement. Those plans abruptly went up in smoke, however,
when he was terminated in disgrace.

As the book opens, he is living with his daughter in a small
Florida town, performing honest but menial work as a grocery packer
in a supermarket and drowning his sorrows in alcohol. All of this
changes when his daughter, along with the latest in a series of
boyfriends, attends a minor league baseball game where Barrett sees
the player who he believes will reverse his ill fortune. The
athlete is a young man named Mikey Clemants, whose wildly
inconsistent playing hides what to Barrett's well-trained eye
appears to be talent on a level with the all-time greats of
baseball. When Barrett approaches Clemants, however, he is abruptly
rebuffed, for reasons he cannot understand.

The answer lies to the north, in New York, where a mob hit man has
received an odd assignment. Johnny Bondano, the go-to button man
for the Lucchesi crime family, is as cold-blooded as they come, but
is possessed of an oddly strict moral code that requires he targets
only those whose presence on the planet is a waste of air. Bondano
is given what may be his ultimate assignment: find and kill Kyle
McLean, who took the life of crime boss Angelo Marconi's grandson
in a hit-and-run accident. It was originally thought that the
killer himself died in a drunken suicide attempt, yet now it
appears that his death was staged and he is in hiding.

As Bondano, racing against a deadline, attempts to discover the
whereabouts of the man, he slowly comes to realize that McLean may
not be his target after all. He may not have a choice --- to defy a
direct order from a mob boss is an automatic death sentence --- yet
his spirit rebels at the thought of taking an innocent life. While
wrestling with this conundrum, his search for McLean takes him to
Florida, where his path is about to cross, however momentarily,
with Barrett, in an event that, though brief, will result in
several lives being forever changed, with some destinies fulfilled
and others irrevocably ended.

Everything about FORCED OUT is different for Stephen Frey. The book
has a very street-wise style to it, much different from the
financial boardroom tone that gave voice to his prior work. What is
amazing here --- I repeatedly stopped reading just long enough to
verify that this indeed was a Frey novel --- is how smoothly and
thoroughly he has reinvented himself, taking his readers from the
world of high finance to this new setting of backstreet boardrooms
and downtrodden bungalows.  While this is new territory for
Frey, he demonstrates that he owns it. Further explorations will be
most welcome.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

Forced Out
by Stephen Frey

  • Publication Date: August 5, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atria
  • ISBN-10: 1416549633
  • ISBN-13: 9781416549635