A debut novel blends loss, intrigue, action, and the criminal underworld.
Declan Curtis is truly down on his luck. He still has a great career as part of an international sales operation, wheeling and dealing Oriental rugs on both sides of the Atlantic to great financial success. But he’s recently had a rude awakening from his American dream, as his wife left him for a sailor, making single-malt Scotch his closest companion. Curtis goes through the motions but can scarcely care about anything, even what the collapse of the Soviet Union might portend for his business. When a deal goes bad, however, he meets a mysterious mob boss, referred to only as Uncle, who wants to contract him. Brokering a shady deal with New York–based Russian-Jewish mobsters seems like a suicide mission, but it piques Curtis’ interest and brings back some of his joie de vivre. He soon finds out, however, that you can’t just dip your toes into the murky waters of Mafia dealings; once you’re in, it’s another matter entirely to get out. As he grows more attached to his life and unravels further threads in the underworld, it’s anyone’s guess how long he can last. With elements of noir, thriller, and literary fiction, Jeremiah’s tale offers an intriguing mix, with a first-person narrative voice that allows Curtis to give his perspective and provide context, making the time period really come alive. The prose is often businesslike, and at times readers may want more details on the action and setting of a scene, as in this fistfight: “We went at each other furiously, but briefly. Our companions separated us and we let them.” That said, the minimalistic prose works well with Curtis’ ennui, and the plot moves at a fast pace that should keep readers from lamenting any missing information for long. Add to that the fact that particulars about the Russian mob in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, and the international trade of rugs and icons are rarely items of discussion, much less central plot points, in novels, and the book becomes a surprising treat.
A classic mob tale with some welcome and unexpectedly fresh notes.