Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Review: Shoot the Moonlight Out

Shoot the Moonlight Out Shoot the Moonlight Out by William Boyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I won a free advance copy of this from the publisher in a Twitter contest.

Another year, another excellent novel from William Boyle.

It’s 1996 in Brooklyn, and a couple of teenage boys are just doing the kind of idiotic things that teenage boys do when they inadvertently cause a tragic accident. Cut to the summer of 2001, and that cloud hangs over one of the boys, Bobby, as well as Jack Cornacchia. Jack used to be a small time hit-man/enforcer, but he doesn’t do much of anything anymore until he takes a writing class being held run by Lilly who just graduated college and wants to start a writing career. However, she's uncertain of what to do next, and she's being stalked by an ex-boyfriend. Meanwhile, Bobby has started working for a guy who runs a Ponzi scheme masquerading as an investment firm when he meets Francesca, a neighborhood girl who just graduated high school and dreams of making movies. When crazy Charlie French runs across a bag of stolen money and drugs, he leaves it with Max for safe keeping while he tries to cut off any connections between him and the loot.

As people start connecting, things start happening, and while some of these relationships result in some heartwarming bonding, others turn bloody.

This is some of the best literary crime fiction you’ll find out there. Boyle has a knack for bringing these Brooklyn streets to life, and then he populates them with complex characters who are all orbiting each other even if they don’t realize it. Everybody has a rich inner life, and whether it’s quiet but deadly Jack mourning a loss or Charlie visiting a local prostitute to satisfy his own particular kink, it all feels real and authentic.

Small events and chance encounters can cause a string of unintended consequences, some good and some terrible. But as Boyle shows once again, if you have a bunch of people with their own baggage and ambitions, and they interact, the results can make you care about them all.

I read a lot of great books in 2021, and this is one of the best of the bunch.

View all my reviews

Friday, December 3, 2021

Review: Grifter's Game

Grifter's Game Grifter's Game by Lawrence Block
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There’s a couple of classic crime novel scenarios I’m also ready to read. One is the standard noir plot in which a guy falls for a married woman, and they decide to kill her husband. The other is when somebody stumbles across something valuable like money or drugs that belongs to bad people. Leave it to a legend like Lawrence Block to combine those two.

Joe Martin is a grifter who skips out on one giant hotel bill and goes to Atlantic City to run up another one. Along the one he steals some luggage at the train station and is shocked to find a huge amount of heroin in one of the bags. While he’s trying to figure out what to do with the drugs, he meets and instantly falls for Mona, a gorgeous woman who is unhappily married to a rich man. Before you can say “Double Indemnity”, Joe begins to plan a murder.

This is billed as the first novel that Lawrence Block published under his own name, and it’s one he can be proud of. While it has some familiar noir tropes in the set-up, the book takes some twists that do not go where you’d expect them too. There’s great character work done so that you feel some sympathy for Joe even as he immediately shows himself to be a criminal who will take advantage of anyone.

Block started out with a great one here, and just kept getting better over the years.

View all my reviews