By Mike Argento
Codorus Press, $14.95, 200 pages

Mike Argento’s Don’t Be Cruel starts with a bang, literally. Centering around small-time gangsters in Las Vegas, the novel offers action, crime, some risky business and a splash of comedy. Readers quickly learn about Papa, a mob-boss type who, while not too bright, is mean and willing to make a buck any way he can. This includes over-working strippers, keeping The First Church of Elvis as a tax write-off and even trying to put a hit on one of his only friends for the insurance money. However, when some of his frenemies collaborate, his get-rich-quick schemes don’t run as smoothly as they could.

The brief 200 pages provide a fast read. While the plot is interesting and the writing is driven to see what happens with each of the wonkily named characters, unfortunately pitfalls detract from the honest creativity behind the storyline. Streams of insubstantial dialog become confusing and frustrating when trying to move forward. Light vernacular trying to depict a thug-like education goes on without adding humor or insight into the characters. Overall though, the plot pulls readers through to the end and makes some of the dopey dialog worth working through.

Reviewed by Sophie Sestero

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