“Payback – Tales of Love, Hate, and Revenge” by Steve Bassett

Steve Bassett
Steve Bassett (2019)
ISBN 9781087800332
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (9/19)

“Payback – Tales of Love, Hate, and Revenge,” the second book in the Passaic River Trilogy by Steve Bassett, is exactly what the title suggests – penetrating love, obsessive hate and grisly revenge weaved intricately through a post WWII world that only gets more intense as it goes along.

The setting is 1946 and the world is still reeling from the aftermath of WWII. It’s no different in Newark, NJ, where acting homicide chief Lieutenant Nick Cisco and his partner, Sergeant Kevin McClosky are investigating a series of bizarre homicides that stink of retribution and find themselves knee-deep in cover up, ambition and power struggles. Two bodies pulled from the Passaic River, and a single arm of another found at the city dump, the victims are all identified as members of the German-American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization. The message behind the murders is clear – retaliation for crimes against humanity.  Add in some racial tension, corporate greed, sexual dalliances, a marriage on the ropes, child abuse, gangsters, mind control, a mysterious madman, and a corrupt church – and you end up with an INTENSE drama that will keep you reading well into the night.

I had the pleasure of reading Steve Bassett’s first novel in the series, “Father Divine’s Bikes” and was excited for the opportunity to read his next journey along the Passaic River. True to form, Bassett’s gift is in the telling of his stories through his many, multifaceted characters. Their quirks, their faults, their strengths and weaknesses, one is delivered deep down into the psyche of each character, giving the reader a true sense of who they are and how they will react based on their thoroughly developed traits. But – that by no means implies they are predictable, and just when you think you know what’s going on and who’s who, Basset throws in a twist! And, as there are numerous characters essential to the plot, there are multiple sub-stories going on within the overall picture of the homicide investigation adding dimension and delicious layers to an amazing story.  Basset’s use of historical figures and events also adds authenticity to the story, as does the use of local dialect and mannerisms of the time, along with vivid imagery of the various settings.

What I enjoy most about reading books in a series is that I often find myself invested in the characters and want to learn even more. With Bassett’s characters, you definitely get a strong sense of who they are and it’s exciting to see what they’ll do next. That and ok, I’m a total book nerd, but I like to look for subtle (or not so subtle) references to the previous story in the series. It’s fun to be able to point out, “Hey, I remember that!” and/or, “Wow, I see so-and-so is up to his old tricks!” In other words, recognition and familiarity breeds dedication, and I always look forward to seeing how the characters evolve in subsequent stories.

Overall, “Payback – Tales of Love, Hate, and Revenge,” the second book in the Passaic River Trilogy by Steve Bassett, reads very well as a standalone novel, but go ahead and get the set.  You won’t regret it. I highly recommend this book, and the series to fans of mystery/thriller, historical fiction and crime novels – really to anyone who enjoys a good story with memorable characters.

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