In Pesare’s debut crime novel, an intelligence officer works with a mobster to try to bring down organized crime in the suburbs of Providence, R.I., and Boston.
Gino Peterson grew up surrounded by criminals in his Providence neighborhood. When his father dies in a car accident, 15-year-old Gino’s mother does everything she can to keep him from falling in with the local gangsters. Much to her delight, he graduates from the police academy in 1974, following in the footsteps of his uncle Earl. Concurrently, mobster Dickie Calderone is brutally murdered and buried in a snowbank in nearby Rehoboth, Mass. Gino becomes obsessed with Calderone’s case, but after years without much traction and a series of career moves, he eventually leaves the mystery behind. That is, until 1982, when his old neighborhood acquaintance (and resident mob underboss) Richard “Moon” Capelli gets convicted on a trumped-up assault charge. Moon calls Gino from prison and delivers an ominous message: “Say hello to my friend Dickie.” Gino is confused; was Dickie, a “made man,” gunned down by Mafia goons? And why is Moon bringing it up now, after all these years? In order to piece the case together, Gino will have to trust the untrustworthy Moon and return to his old stomping grounds; he’ll also have to revisit his father’s death, which he never believed was an accident. The novel follows the classic cops-vs.-mobsters model—the cops are never quite as clean as they seem, and the mobsters never quite as dirty. Although the novel is a bit lengthy, it provides a nice sense of New England atmosphere throughout; characters often refer to the local sports teams—one even comparing Gino to the Boston Bruins’ Bobby Orr—which adds a nice touch of authenticity. The prose is smooth, if not particularly inventive, but it occasionally gets bogged down by clichéd images, such as “Kelly grabbed the wheel until his knuckles turned white.” There are welcome moments of humor, however, as when the narrator notes that Calderone, afraid of police surveillance, played a specific song to drown out Mob-related conversations: Eric Clapton’s cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff.”
An often intriguing, if overlong, tale of a cop returning to his old neighborhood.