Charlie Pellechia takes his wife to Vegas in a last ditch effort to save his marriage. Unfortunately, she’s had enough of him and his love of opera. So what was supposed to be a second honeymoon is the end of their marriage.
Only Nicky Cuccia has other ideas. Nicky is a wise guy and thinks there should have been no consequences to grabbing Charlie’s wife’s ass. There were, however, as Charlie broke his jaw defending his wife’s honor. Cuccia follows Charlie to Vegas and proceeds to beat both of them up separately, through hired muscle, then tries to kill Charlie. But he can’t get that right. An aging mobster, dying of cancer, decides to turn before the job is done. Cuccia’s other hired hands are a vapid body builder and a would-be wise guy who loses his nerve easily. There very presence brings them into the sites of a nervous organized crime cop, a DEA agent out to save his own hide, and the psycho ex of a waitress whose roommate Charlie ends up with.
This is a little bit of a departure for Stella. The cops play a bigger role in this, and the main protag, the titular Charlie, is not a mobster. He’s a civilian caught up in Cuccia’s macho vendetta. Plus the story takes place almost entirely in Las Vegas, new territory for Stella, who usually sets his stories in New York. Stella is juggling a lot of balls here, including a subplot about a Vegas cop whose wife is cheating on him. It’s more complex than Jimmy Bench Press and Eddie’s World, and unlike the follow-up, Cheapskates, is only very loosely tied to the world of those books.