The titular character in Bill Pronzini’s THE CRIMES OF JORDAN WISE is an average Joe, one of the faceless millions who are a slave to the daily grind. Wise works as an accountant for a large corporation in San Francisco. He has no friends, and doesn’t have any luck with the ladies. While he has dreams of living on the beach and owning his own sailboat, they remain far out of his reach due to his rigid lifestyle.

But then he meets Annalise Bonner, a beautiful woman who sells lingerie in a nearby department store. Annalise is Jordan’s polar opposite – she’s bubbly and charismatic, loves being the center of attention, and is always on the lookout for a new adventure. Their relationship starts out hot and heavy, but over the course of a couple months Annalise loses interest in Jordan’s by-the-book personality and dumps him.

Instead of letting Annalise fade out of his life, Jordan devises an ingenious plan to embezzle $600,000 from his company so that he can win back Annalise’s heart and fund a new life for the couple. After successfully filtering the money into an offshore account over the course of eighteen months, Jordan and Annalise flee to the Virgin Islands to start their new life together. Annalise finds a beautiful hilltop villa for the couple and quickly makes friends with the other islanders; Jordan becomes best friends with a local sailor and finally purchases his own sailboat. They live in peace and happiness for a couple years, but eventually things fall apart as life once again becomes routine and Annalise starts causing problems. As complications arise, Jordan is forced to revisit his past crime...and scramble to preserve his way of life.

THE CRIMES OF JORDAN WISE can be summed up in one word: amazing. Pronzini delivers on all levels, from the complex cast of characters to the beautiful settings to the detailed crimes alluded to in the title. The story is expertly paced, keeping me glued to my chair and making me flip the pages to see what happened next. And the prose…my God, the prose! There are sections so well-written – so heads-and-tails above everything else out there – that it boggles the mind. Early on in the novel, Pronzini spends a handful of pages describing love in all its variations. As soon as I came to the end of the section, I went back and reread it. After I was done with the book, I reread the section a third time. Simply put, no adjectives I could come up with can accurately illustrate just how good Pronzini’s writing is. It really has to be read to be believed.

And so it goes without saying that I highly recommend THE CRIMES OF JORDAN WISE. With the exception of a small section that delves into very detailed sailing terminology (during which the pace slows down somewhat), the story continues to build tension as the characters’ past threatens to overwhelm them. Crime fiction doesn’t get much better than this, once again proving that Pronzini is one of the masters of the genre.

Unfortunately, most versions of THE CRIMES OF JORDAN WISE are out of print. There is a Kindle version available at for $14.37 as well as a large-print hardcover edition at Barnes & Noble for $27.57. If neither of those options is to your liking, there are plenty of low-priced editions available on

(10 out of 10)

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