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Producer/screenwriter Fusco’s fiction debut has many simpatico characters, some charming scenes, and an exhausting, overblown plot.

It’s 1979, and 12-year-old Anuziato “Nunzio” Paradiso has had his last carefree summer in the blue-collar Connecticut town of Saukiwog Mills. His father, Big Dan, decides it’s time for him to work in the family business, Paradise Salvage, along with his older brother, Danny Boy, a high-school football hero who dreams of following in the footsteps of his idol, Robert De Niro. Nunzio belongs to a colorful if stereotypical working-class Italian-American family with all the requisite grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles, endless Sunday dinners, Old World superstitions and traditions, and a father who spouts homespun wisdom like “One man’s junk, another man’s treasure.” But the joy of discovery turns to horror, then adventure, and ultimately a quest for justice when Nunzio pops the trunk of a ’73 Pontiac and finds a dead body. The car is fed to the junkyard crusher while he goes for help, and everyone writes off his story as the product of an overactive imagination. Only Danny Boy believes him; while the Pontiac’s remains sit on a heap of scrap metal, the boys set off to solve the mystery. They enlist the aid of Nunzio’s godfather, Goomba Angelo, a disgraced quadriplegic ex-cop who has been disowned by the family and counts as friends only his Capuchin helper monkey and a black female gypsy cabdriver. The stew thickens with crooked land deals, steroid-mad townies, Danny Boy’s attraction for a sexy Puerto Rican girl in the tanning salon at the mall, disenfranchised local Indians, a shady mayor, and a patronage system left over from the dark ages. Suffice it to say that all ends well and the character of the workingman rules supreme.

Predictable. Palatable. Straight to the multiplex.

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 2002
ISBN: 1-58567-209-2
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2001