A delightful & unusual tale of international intrigue, “Once a Crooked Man” is David McCallum’s debut novel. Best known as Ducky, the medical examiner on the wildly popular crime drama NCIS, McCallum departs from his character’s overly-detailed and scientific stories to bring readers a witty and nicely entertaining adventure.
Harry Murphy, a moderately successful young actor, leaves an audition in New York City and stops in to a Chinese restaurant where he plans to use the bathroom. When a few men sitting at a table prevent him from entering the establishment, he chooses to relieve himself in the adjacent alley. As he does so, he overhears the men discussing a murder plot. Making a list of items of concern on his cell phone, Murphy bolts from the alley and decides to warn the intended target about the plan.
It turns out the men he encountered are members of the Bruschetti family, local mobsters who are considering tidying up their illegal business practices and going “clean.” Before they do, they must off those members of their network that know too much. As Murphy attempts to prevent the killings, the Bruschettis think they are at odds with a criminal mastermind. Hilarity ensues.
Would an actor really track down the leader of the militia in another country and simply call the man on an international line to say “hey, watch your back?” Would he then book a flight and travel to the guy’s house? Umm.. I think not. But after I scoffed, I kept reading. That’s how I knew I was in for a pretty fun time.
The plot is rather implausible, and McCallum’s characters have some unusual traits, but the twists and turns made the book pretty enjoyable. I looked at it as a caper.. Different, tough to predict, and as long as you suspend reality, an entertaining story overall.