Macklin was a hitman for the local mob but by Roses Are Dead, he's working solo and getting divorced. Not that the divorce means much to him, work and surviving is the only things that matters to Macklin. He's also got a recently clean son who wants to join the family business. After agreeing to play bodyguard a woman whose psychotic-ex is stalking her someone tries burn Macklin up with a flame-thrower. So, Macklin's got some problems.
Macklin's on the run from kung-fu killers, ex-KGB killers with mercury tipped bullets, the psycho-ex who likes knives too much, cops, and the Feds. So, that leads to gunfights, fistfights, murder, cars exploding, twists and turns. Macklin is a pretty taciturn lead but he's enjoyable in cold professionalism, much more of action hero of a 50s/60s Gold Medal paperback than a lot of those that were kicking around in the 80s. I can sense a little bit of Matt Helm in Macklin, but less cracks about women wearing pants.
Estleman is great writer, the plot chugs along with precision, the action quick and hard and the intrigue of it all is thoroughly interesting. Roses Are Dead is a little bit of a let-down from the awesome Kill Zone, but really, they're two different kinds of books. Kill Zone was a lot more of a straight action novel whereas Roses Are Dead is a crime thriller with a fair amount of action. A small distinction, but a distinction, nonetheless. I'm excited to see where the series goes, he wrote 3 in quick succession in the 80s but then returned to it in the early 2000s.