A tale dripping with blood and money in a family that’s far more fun to read about than it would be to live with.
“So listen,” the narrator begins, and you feel like he’s confiding in you about a bunch of crooks he knows. But no, he’s “selling them out to you” as though he’s more snitch than storyteller. “There is blood everywhere,” he assures “dear reader” near the beginning, and in due time, it’s a promise amply kept. What else to expect from people who make some of their riches from involuntary organ donors? The bulk of the story takes place in Cleveland, with side trips to Ukraine. Cleveland is “a city built to make money and a city that money built, built and took apart, again and again.” There are two cousins named Peter Hightower. One is a journalist, and one, Petey, is a criminal who evolves from Petro Garko to Pete the Uke to Peter Henry Hightower, falsely claiming to have gone to Yale. “How much money does my family have?” asks the other Peter Hightower. The answer is that they stopped counting long ago. Their grandfather was a thug with deep Ukrainian roots. The criminal tradition continues in Cleveland, with the women just as vicious as the men—but will that be enough against a rival named The Wolf? Slattery goes into rich digressions such as the fatal Sugar Ray Robinson–Jim Doyle fight, and he does them so well the reader doesn’t care that they’re only tangential to the storyline. And one could fill a page with all the novel’s quotable lines; “I love you means I will bleed you dry” tops the list.
This is a splendid story filled with betrayal and disaster. Readers prone to schadenfreude will find it doubly delicious.