THE CITY BELOW by James Carroll


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 It's business as usual in Carroll's (Mortal Friends, 1978, etc.) newest historical saga as intrigue, ordeals, and passion abound in a compelling story of two brothers who rise from the dirty streets of Charlestown to Boston's circles of power. Terry and Nick (Squire) Doyle grew up in a small apartment above their grandfather's Charlestown flower shop in the shadow of Bunker Hill. Irish and Catholic to the core, the boys were one another's better halves until fate and their own driven natures warped their destinies. Both brothers achieve wealth and political influence, one at the expense of his honor, the other at the expense of his life. Terry renounces the call of priesthood to join Ted Kennedy's political team and to participate in the shady real estate developments that marked Boston in the 1980s. Nick dutifully takes over the flower shop but uses it as a front for his dealings with a mafioso's money-laundering and extortion operation. Violent racial conflict pervades this novel, first among the Italian and Irish thugs fighting for commercial control of Boston, and later among the Irish and blacks, who clash over Boston's busing discord of the 1970s. Betrayal is another dominant theme here: Squire misuses and eventually murders his brother-in-law; Terry's first girlfriend marries Squire; Squire sleeps with and impregnates Terry's wife; Squire bribes Terry's best friend and implicates and nearly ruins Terry in his nefarious mafia machinations. Carroll combines Boston's familiar turf and his staple historical personae--the Kennedys and Cardinal Cushing among them- -with a vibrant new cast of characters. The writing is dependable throughout (its strength being the dialogue), while the plotting offers spectacular twists, a breakneck pace, and a startling ending. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 12th, 1994
ISBN: 0-395-59070-1
Page count: 422pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1994


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