In Manos’ crime drama, Michael Pollitz must decide whether to protect the mobster who has protected him.
When Mike, a college student in 1972 Illinois, is arrested on drug charges, his father insists he use a public defender. His childhood friend’s father, Dom Calabria, head of the Outfit in Chicago, wants to help Mike by providing a first-rate lawyer, but Mike goes with his father’s wishes. The outcome is a plea bargain for a short stay in Astoria Adult Correctional Facility—but after he’s brutally beaten and raped by three inmates, Mike spends most of his sentence in the infirmary. He doesn’t give up his assailants’ names but threatens their lives right before he’s set to be released. When Mike is picked up by the head of the mob, people notice. Flash forward to 1994, when Detective Larry Klinger begins investigating the murders of two former Astoria inmates who were violently killed shortly after being released. An informant—the third man who beat Mike—tells Klinger that the murders were committed by Calabria, the kingpin whom Klinger would like to see taken down. Klinger investigates, coming in contact with Mike, and the two form a friendship. When Klinger realizes that Mike will never give up Calabria, he begins to wonder whether it’s even worth investigating the murders of such evil men. Manos is extremely deft at allowing the characters to reveal the story and what motivates them. Klinger captures this particularly well; he ponders his role in the reality of crime and punishment, and Manos allows him to grow in the process: “Interviewing scumbags has to be the most tedious damn thing in the world, Klinger thought, as Bobby Andrews jumped back and forth over the same explanations, tripping over one lie after another.” The characters are rich in their speech, experiences and motivations, which the measured, purposeful writing only enhances.
A character-driven crime novel ruled by complex men facing the past.