The brilliance of Frank Zafiro’s book AT THEIR OWN GAME is that you’re inside the head of a “basically good” ex-cop who gradually turns the corner into a different kind of animal. The change is so gradual – and the reader so complicit in this change – that any avid Breaking Bad fan might not immediately recognize the careful tight-rope act this novel walks.
In this tension-filled crime novel, Zafiro gradually reveals the truth behind protagonist’s Jake Stankovic’s problems. Every beef Stankovic has with his ex-superiors and every problem he has with the criminal competition seem entirely legitimate. He’s in love with a woman who (spoiler) betrays his trust, and he’s dogged by a past affair with a fellow cop’s wife. He has a tough life.
Yet our hero is always wanting to do the right thing – or so we are led to believe. However, by the end, the dark truth that has lurked behind the scenes forces its way to the forefront. The genius of the story is that this darker reality doesn’t come clear to the reader until the last powerful words of the book. Then that truth reverberates backwards through our entire reading.
A brief, tight, criminally intense story of destructive behavior masked by “good” intentions, AT THEIR OWN GAME puts its finger right on the pulse of the ever-sinful human heart. There is little redemptive in this strong story, but there is a lot that is true.