A trail of murdered mobsters puts three best friends on opposite sides of the law in Giammatteo’s debut crime novel.
Giammatteo turns a genre stereotype on its head with a smart balance of conflicting perspectives that emotionally involve the reader in the New York underworld and its dirty players. Frankie “Bugs” Donovan, Nicky “the Rat” Fusco and Tony “the Brain” Sannullo were inseparable as kids, living by a code of “friendship and honor,” sharing families, stealing cigarettes and watching each other’s backs. Things change after a fight with another gang leaves two teenage boys dead and sends Nicky to prison for a decade. When Nicky gets out, nothing is the same: The girl he loves is married to someone else, Frankie is a cop and Tony is in the mob. With no family to turn to, Nicky’s only recourse is Tony’s criminal connections—and with the mob, murder is never far away. When the bodies of brutally executed mobsters start showing up in Brooklyn, Frankie is given orders to track down the killer. It doesn’t take long for the evidence to lead back to his old neighborhood and his two best friends. The storytelling switches smoothly back and forth, easing from Nicky’s reflections on his childhood difficulties and the respite he found with Frankie and Tony, to Frankie’s struggles to fulfill his professional duties without forsaking his friendships. Ultimately, Frankie must decide whether he is a cop or a gangster, while dealing with the sacrifices that choice entails. Giammatteo’s novel kicks off with the unfortunate impression of being an oversexed, hyper-violent crime drama, yet the author digs deep to find a balance between a psychological thriller and a coming-of-age story. The narrative heat and layered characterization rarely drag, making for an engaging read.
A nuanced debut that upends genre stereotypes and readers’ expecations.