By Hook or By Crook by Al Marsiglia

four stars

hookBy Hook or By Crook, a novel by Al Marsiglia, begins with a bang. Frankie Fiore, an ex-convict who served his time at the notorious prison on Rikers Island, wakes up to a phone call in the middle of the night that the narrator likens to a grenade being tossed through a window. The call he receives, unbeknownst to him at the time, will forever impact his future. His mentor and a current inmate at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Biff, also known as Aloyisius Rollo, reaches out in the hopes that Frankie will grant him a dying wish of sorts. As it turns out, Biff’s dying wish is for Frankie to look after his son, Marcus, who is seventeen and already ostensibly prone to trouble. The way that Biff “sweetens the pot,” as it were, is by promising Frankie a large cut of a million-dollar stash. Behind the scenes, an old foe of Frankie’s plots his demise and begins scheming ways to steal that newfound inheritance out from under his nose. Aptly named Jimmy “The Nose” Provitera, this local mob boss has it out for Frankie in the worst way for helping to land him in prison. As soon as he’s released from prison, he plans to murder Frankie and abscond with the fortune. Matters are further complicated when Biff dies before revealing to Frankie the exact location of the treasure. Armed with only a rusty key to a safe deposit box and with the help of Marcus, Frankie discovers the location of the old safe deposit box, but what’s inside is certainly not quite what he was expecting.

The suspense in By Hook or By Crook really matches up with the fervor of the title. No matter the obstacles in Frankie Fiore’s way, he manages to make it ahead, by hook or by crook, and, of course, he’s a former crook, so that pun rings even truer. The light and jovial manner in which the novel is written also lends itself well to the playful humor of the title: the way both the dialogue and the narrative are written makes the thick and endearing New York accents almost jump off of the pages. Every page presents a new and colorful way of looking at the intensely thrilling world that Frankie is the center of, and each character comes to life in a very real fashion throughout the story. Together, Frankie and Reno make for an extremely odd couple, but their relationship is so wonderfully captured that it’s possible to see them vividly together. Jimmy Provitera also bursts into life in a dichotomously contrasting way, as he serves as the direct foil to Frankie Fiore. By the end of the novel, it becomes apparent that the novel centers on the opposing forces of good and evil. Will evil prevail in the end? Will good finally balance the universe out and leave Frankie with an enormous fortune? It’s definitely worth the read to find out how the chips lie at the end of By Hook or By Crook.

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