Carr (The Legend of Broken, 2012, etc.) returns with a curious whodunit that weds leisurely 19th-century storytelling with 21st-century unpleasantness.
It’s not a demand for the Big Apple to give up to the Wicked Witch. Instead, the title of Carr’s new novel, full of echoes of and allusions to its predecessors, is also the name of an upstate town where NYPD psychologist Trajan Jones finds himself in exile, having crossed the brass one time too many. Now, with partner Mike Li, he’s teaching criminology online, a fact that lands him new connections—including a student who’s caught up in a whole mess of dark secrets surrounding the forest-shrouded burg. Complicating the story are the local gendarmes, a young blind woman who—this being a genre novel, after all—allows a good long glimpse at what’s underneath her robe, and—this being a Carr novel, full of quirks all its own—a pet cheetah. Bringing Up Baby it’s not, though a sordid twist involving what Carr euphemistically calls “illegal adoption” figures. It takes a good long while for the plot to unfold and the bad guys to emerge, as is the way of most police investigations—and of Carr’s Trollope-an style, long on atmospherics and short of car chases and their moral equivalents. And, as always, Carr takes an encyclopedic, parenthetical, village-explainer approach that some readers, used to swifter narratives, might not wholly endorse; along the way, we learn, for example, of the tensions between medical examiners and coroners, who are not the same thing, and why Albany is the capital of New York, for better or worse. Yet Carr’s story poses an utterly modern question: for a career-minded politico, which is worse, a child-neglect scandal or a serial killer on the loose? We get to see both at work, including some nicely nasty mayhem: “He’d been hit in the center of the back, the shot shattering his spine and, I found when I turned him over, taking away part of his chest.”
Carr’s many fans will find this well worth the wait.