CITY OF THE DEAD by Herbert Lieberman


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City of the Dead is a much more mephitic and enclosed Crawlspace (1971); it's the New York City morgue where for 40 years Paul Konig, a great pathologist, has presided with highhanded dedication and self-destruction, refusing to concede to ""death and assafetida. Formalin and fright."" Hitting everything hard including the bottle in between Valiums, he sounds just like George C. Scott. ""Shit work. I clean up after the goddamn party,"" making enemies instead of money. Now there are all kinds of problems on the tables, under the knife, including his own butt. The Mayor is out to shaft him with the help of one of Konig's ambitious men--was the suicide in the tombs really a murder, committed by one of the guards? In any case it led to sloppy forensic work--not Konig's. And how about the just revealed sideline of another department regular--the sale of unclaimed bodies? But there's worse to follow--the two bodies dredged up in various stages of mutilation, disarticulation and putrefaction to be put together--""like Humpty Dumpty."" Enough? by no means--the real and most terrible half of Konig's story concerns his daughter Lolly who disappeared five months earlier into the hands of a militant group. Now there are susurrant, anonymous phone calls while a city detective tries to find her before she's returned in a canvas bag. . . . Lieberman's book is as obviously hard to take as it is to leave alone--but then if you can't stand the stench, stay out of the kitchen. It has a massive amount of authoritative detail--down to the last tache noire of the pupil of the eye which is about to be closed for good. If you flinch, well remember Wambaugh: Lieberman is a much sharper writer and his novel has all its buttons which in this case means vital signs.

Pub Date: July 12th, 1976
Publisher: Simon & Schuster