Two years ago, Harry Rane's wife died after a bout with cancer. Then, grief-stricken and careless, he went back to his job as a New Jersey state cop and got shot in the line of duty. He took early retirement, and now lives in an old farmhouse in rural New Jersey and takes life one day at a time. It's not much, but he gets by.
Things change when an old friend from his grade school days in Long Branch calls him for help. Bobby was Harry's best friend until high school graduation, but when Harry went to the police academy Bobby went another way, working, dealing a little on the side. Now he's taken one last chance and gotten in over his head for $50,000 to Eddie Fallon, a local crime boss. Harry goes to see Fallon on Bobby's behalf, hoping to work something out, but it's hard to negotiate with a man like Fallon, and things quickly get complicated, and dangerous.
He does learn, too, that he and Fallon have something in common --- Fallon's wife is an ex-girlfriend Harry hasn't seen since he was eighteen, a girl who was pregnant with his child when she ran away.
In The Barbed-Wire Kiss, Wallace Stroby's brooding, blistering debut set against the spare, atmospheric background of downstate New Jersey, Harry gets caught between his past and his future, between right and vengeance.