THE NARROWBACK by Michael S. Ledwidge

THE NARROWBACK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Odd Man Out meets Reservoir Dogs in Ledwidge's first novel, a shot-by-shot account of a hotel heist gone wrong. Tom Farrell has seen it all, from the time he spent in childhood watching his da beat his ma, then suffering through his addict brother Terry's AIDS death, then serving the stint in the service that was supposed to straighten him out but just taught him how to shoot. Farrell acts so world-weary even as a wee tyke that he doesn't seem to have any illusions left to lose. Nothing's left, evidently, except a big score against a luxury hotel he's had months to case. The score, minutely planned down to the last diamond, naturally comes a cropper--two croppers--before Farrell and his gang can down their celebratory drinks. The trouble? First, Farrell realizes that Liam Durkin, the safecracker they didn't even need on the job, has delusions of exclusivity, and Farrell's buddy Bobby Mullen agrees to execute him, not realizing that Durkin is tied in to the Big Apple branch of the IRA Provos. Then Farrell, as if unable to leave ill enough alone, casually insults the Albanian fence who's agreed to handle the take, drawing down the wrath of every ethnic Albanian in the city. As Farrell darts from seedy bar to moldering crack-house looking for liquor, drugs, and safety but finding only willing women and men with guns, there's just one ray of hope: so many people don't like Farrell (including the requisite FBI agent who's as disaffected as Farrell) that there's a chance they may inadvertently blow each other away before they get him in their sights. Ledwidge describes each outburst with such precision as to achieve a kind of affectless grace. The only elements that stand out from the flow of meaningless violence are Farrell's troubled background (relayed in incongruously old-fashioned flashbacks) and his incredible run of bad luck. Except for those flashbacks, with their nostalgic suggestion of some sort of rational causality, newcomer Ledwidge has produced a model postmodern caper the first time out.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly