Now, who doesn't like a good caper movie?
Because that is what this is, a caper movie. Cody Plummer is a con man & robber who's inserted himself into polite society in Chicago after doing a prison term several years earlier, a prison term that has left him with a rather deep resentment for the Pinkerton agent who put him there. Now that Pinkerton agent is in charge of a tremendous amount of money being transported by train to San Francisco, and of course it's going to be protected in a manner that makes it impossible to steal, with a special safe in a special armored car designed by none other than George Pullman himself, and an armed escort. Plus, if the train's late for a stop, a posse will be organized and sent out to catch any train robbers.
So naturally, Plummer collects a team to take the almost two million dollars away from the federal government. (After all, he's entitled to it, isn't he? Heck, he was sent to prison by this Pinkerton agent for robbing banks, and if that doesn't entitle you to rob the government of people's tax dollars, I don't know what does.) His first recruit is an old lover, currently making her living as a prostitute-slash-thief, and then follows the obligatory pattern of seeking out various potential gang members – including a money launderer – and trying to persuade them.
This process takes up a bit more than half the book, which is a bit unfortunate as the various recruitings never get particularly exciting (at least not if you've already seen a couple of caper movies and know the genre). Then comes the caper itself, exquisitely planned and put into action – but will it hit a snag and fail?
The nice parts are, it is indeed a well-planned scheme, and Barreto's style is nice, clean and crisp, and very competent. The weaknesses? Well, the script mainly seems to be touching the bases; it's like Johnston had a list of what should be in a caper movie, and checked off that list while writing the script. The dialogue is adequate but nothing more, and, well, that's pretty much how I'd sum up the whole script. And unfortunately, that pretty close to describing Barreto's art as well. It's very competent, don't get me wrong, but when the script doesn't deliver enough pizzazz to keep me riveted, Barreto would have had to give me more than he does here. He tells the story, but just like a caper movie would have to compensate for a humdrum script with exciting acting and cutting, as well as judicious use of the soundtrack, this story needed Neal Adams- or Gil Kane-level exciting graphics. (Or Joe Kubert. If it's a western, you just cannot go wrong with Joe Kubert.)
So, unfortunately not recommended. But I would love to see Barreto illustrate a well-written Modesty Blaise- or Rip Kirby-type story.