Reviewed by Wendy Hawkin
With shades of Easy Rider and Bonnie and Clyde, in his latest crime
novel, Dietrich Kalteis takes us on an archetypal magic flight through 1973
British Columbia. As Blake Snyder would say, it’s the Golden Fleece.
Revamped and dirtied down, this “road movie” illuminates, not only the
crime, but the character of the thieving protagonists.
Kalteis writes brash, raw, dirty, and gritty like no one else. So, it’s tough
to have sympathy for the beautiful Bobbi Ricci, who hooked up with 60-
year-old “Maddog” Palmieri or Lonzo, as the Italian crime boss likes to be
called because she likes the money and the “tough-guy routine.” To root
for a character, they need some redeeming qualities—Bobbi makes that hard and Lonzo makes it harder. Her descriptions of Lonzo leave us wondering if riding in the boss’s limo and high-end dining out in Vancouver is worth the price.
Apparently not. Five months in, Bobbi’s had enough of Lonzo with his
“graying hair, combed in a swirl to hide the pink dome, bluish veins like a
road map above his ankles, [and an] ass like a deflated tire.”
Not a woman to be trifled with (which might be one of her redeeming
qualities) Bobbi plans her escape.
Enter Denny Barrenko. An American draft dodger who demonstrated
against the Vietnam War then flew north. He landed in Vancouver and
worked for a time as Lonzo’s limo driver—which is where he first saw Bobbi
in the rearview mirror. Then Lonzo fired him and ripped him off. Seeking
retribution, Denny breaks into Lonzo’s place in the midst of Bobbi’s escape.
She catches him and forces him to help her run off with two of Lonzo’s Gucci
bags containing half-a-million dollars in secret cash. Bobbi’s drugged Lonzo
and just to add insult to injury, they take his caddy. And so, fifty pages in,
the magic flight begins.
None too smart and driven by emotion, Bobbi calls Lonzo from a pay
phone in Squamish to gloat and get the last word—a mistake that gets
assassin Lee Trane on their tail.
A hair-raising escapade fueled by impulsive choices, this page-turner
kept me up most of the night. I love any kind of road story, especially one
that comes with down-and-dirty drama, a trail of stolen vehicles, a police
chase, devious underdogs, and a map: Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler,
Lillooet, Smithers, Ripley, and eventually, Killick, Alaska. It also comes with
a fabulous 1970s soundtrack, all the details of the decade, and masterful
descriptions, all in Kalteis’s casually clipped style.
I’ll leave you to discover for yourself what the title alludes to. Where’s
The Cradle of the Deep? Do Bobbi and Denny get caught or do they
escape the police, the assassin, and others they’ve met along the way?
Does their relationship grow into anything more than mutual Lonzo-haters
and escapees? And the half-a-million-dollar question—what happened to
The Cradle of the Deep is published by ECW Press.
W. L. Hawkin writes urban fantasy with a twist of murder. To Charm a
Killer, To Sleep with Stones, and To Render a Raven are the first three
books in her Hollystone Mysteries series with Blue Haven Press. Watch for
her equinox launch of To Kill a King in March 2021.