Dolan’s debut thriller begins simply enough, with two men burying a third in a forested section of Ann Arbor’s Marshall Park. From there, it gets ever more loopy, far-fetched and baroque.
Rolling stone David Loogan (not his real name) has been working as an editor for the literary magazine Gray Streets. He has a good relationship with his boss, Tom Kristoll, and an even better relationship with his boss’s wife. But he’s a secretive man who keeps to himself, and that doesn’t change when Tom asks him to help dispose of a body. Michael Beccanti was an ex-con with a long history of break-ins who came to his office to rob him, Tom explains; he bashed the intruder in self-defense. It’s not long before David discovers that Tom’s story is a tissue of lies, but by then the body is resting in Ann Arbor’s good green earth, followed shortly by the remains of Tom, who allegedly took a header out his office window. Police detective Elizabeth Waishkey, not fooled by the suicide angle, identifies the obvious suspect in Tom’s murder just in time to hear that he’s died as well, apparently by his own hand. Though David and Elizabeth are clearly attracted to one another, their investigations take them in separate directions, a divergence that becomes even more pronounced when a retired New York cop turns up with a story about David’s past that sends his quarry packing. Although the resulting tale fits Tom’s definition of Gray Streets fiction—“Plans go wrong, bad things happen, people die”—Elizabeth keeps telling David that “this isn’t a story in Gray Streets,” and she’s right. There are far too many violent deaths, plot twists, ghostwriters, red herrings, guilty secrets, false theories, unconnected murderers, come-from-nowhere revelations and 11th-hour switcheroos for any self-respecting literary journal.
On the other hand, Dolan has provided a seven-course banquet for readers with a taste for deliriously overplotted pulp with just enough polish to keep them from feeling guilty.