Swift-moving tale about basketball, murder and the Internet on the mean streets of San Francisco.
Second-novelist Martin (Luck, 2000) gives his protagonist, Shane McCarthy, an unusual occupation: he’s a chimneysweep. “Most of Shane’s clients,” Martin writes, “have never looked inside their chimney before . . . but once he shows them. . . [They] realize that’s where secrets live, in the trunk of the house, where you can count the rings and read history aloud. If you speak chimney.” All this nicely foreshadows the seamy story that emerges: As San Francisco of 1999 booms with dot-com money, and working-class neighborhoods become yuppie enclaves, Shane, an aging basketball addict who can’t seem to stop breaking his foot, finds himself in the middle of a grimy mystery: a mixed-race, young, gay teammate has gone missing, leaving a clue-stuffed duffel bag, and Shane decides it’s his job to find the kid. He’s got time for the quest, since his wife, one of the dot-commers, is chasing after the big bucks and is never around to supervise him. Powerless and alone in a rapidly remade city full of newcomers, Shane keeps at the effort, going in deeper and deeper. His search for the elusive boy who goes by many names takes him into tough territory and introduces him to people whose existence he barely knew before, to the secrets inside San Francisco’s chimneys. Basketball keeps him a little sane—a game that goes on, he reflects, while love and lives come and go. Yet, in the end, the quest costs him almost more than he can bear to pay, even as the get-rich-quick city smacks up against a dead end and becomes “a very different place . . . crowded with failing falling stars, companies winking out one by one, their Web sites going dark.”
Expertly written, just the right blend of existential mystery with hoop dreams, and plenty of middle-aged angst to spare.