Coffey’s debut thriller follows the Boston district attorney, who hopes to adopt a troubled boy and seems to be getting help from a gangster—the same man he’s been trying to put in prison.
After failing to convict notorious mobster Gabriel Adelaide of protection racketeering, Bruce Hudson directs his energy to 5-year-old August, whom Bruce and his wife, Martha, want to adopt. But Bruce’s colitis has disqualified him as a foster parent for the boy. He suspects ulterior motives when Gabe apparently pushes the adoption process along by strong-arming August’s social worker and paying for Bruce’s costly surgery. Gabe, however, has personal reasons for helping—reasons his gangster father, Victor, would rather keep quiet. The well-written novel gradually and skillfully changes protagonists: Gabe begins as Bruce’s antagonist when he initially threatens Sara, the social worker, but Gabe’s tactics improve, and he instead offers Sara money; by the time he takes August away from his uncaring foster parents, Gabe has also taken the novel’s focus. The story’s strongest point is its depiction of fathers: Both Gabe and Bruce may be only surrogate dads, but they clearly care for August—Gabe orders one of his goons to buy whatever toys the boy asks for—and they’re in sharp contrast to August’s biological father, a drunk who raped, beat and strangled the boy’s mother to death and then committed suicide. Coffey amps up the tension by throwing another mob family into the mix: the Filippos, who are trying to elbow their way onto the Adelaides’ turf (mostly drugs and prostitutes). Victor, meanwhile, pulls Bruce even deeper into his family’s troubles when he tries convincing the Filippo boss that he has the DA in his pocket. There are a few plot twists, though most are revealed early in the book, and some well-crafted, subtle touches, as with a caustic portrayal of the press, who adores Gabe and willfully lets him hog their cameras despite the fact that he’s been accused of sanctioning the murders of men who were set to testify in his trial.
Triumphs as a thriller but at its best as a story about what it truly means to be a father.