Cot racks up many kills: Give him his due, the guy can shoot.

Smith’s eighth novel is an offbeat crime story that portrays a gangster with more soul than smarts. 

Cot Sims has returned to his hometown of Key West, and that’s bad news. What alarms the locals is not that Cot is a gangster (he’s one of their own, so they’ll cut him some slack), but that he’s a screw-up, trailing woe. For 18 years, Cot has been a utility guy for Albertson, head of a major drug smuggling operation in Miami. He’s come home to help his mother, Ella; the town won’t let her move back into her house (hurricane damage). Palms need to be greased. Cot’s dilemma is that he’s just blown his last dollar at the track. Then he gets word Albertson wants him to check on a stash of emeralds. Why not buy off the inspector with a gem? It’s twisted logic, inviting Albertson’s retribution, but vintage Cot. Before that can happen, Cot’s oldest friend, CJ, a cross-dressing entertainer guarding the gems, is found dead on the beach, the stones gone. Meanwhile, Cot has resumed his on-again, off-again affair with his moll Marcella, a lawyer defiantly unfaithful to her prosecutor husband, while still finding time to read Virgil, his favorite author, and ruminate on the whole sad mess of life and death; he’s more like one of Graham Greene’s spiritual wrecks than the killer he is. Is he credible? The Virgil is a bit much, but readers will be willing to believe in Cot’s self-destructive spree until the plot becomes altogether too wild and woolly. The introspection outweighs the action, though there’s plenty of that too, including a kidnapping, a scary flight to the Gulf Coast, a showdown with Albertson (the climax in a more restrained novel), a Key West shootout between cops and mobsters, and a corpse-strewn finale in Havana.

Cot racks up many kills: Give him his due, the guy can shoot.

Pub Date: July 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-224727-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013



The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000



The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn't ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn't shown signs of cracking under the secret's weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you're thinking remorse-drama, conscience masque, or even semi-trashy who'll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion." First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very 80's—and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 1400031702

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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