Kirkus Reviews QR Code
EXCHANGE ALLEY by Michael Walsh


by Michael Walsh

Pub Date: July 9th, 1997
ISBN: 0-446-52069-1

Densely plotted New York tough-cop procedural that incongruously mixes gruesome walks on the wild side with KGB-CIA intrigue. Beginning initially inside a secret CIA dungeon, this first novel from music journalist Walsh (Andrew Lloyd Webber, not reviewed, etc.) quickly cuts to the discovery of a naked, bullet-ridden, castrated male corpse in the Rockland County woods not far from an abandoned BMW with Danish diplomatic plates registered to a Manhattan address. NYPD Homicide Lieutenant Francis X. Byrne studies the corpse in the gruff and tough style we expect from seen-it-all New York cops until he finds, inside the BMW, a photo of two women, one of whom seems to be Byrne's mother minus 30 or so years. The unsettled Byrne pockets the photo, makes a call on the Danish consulate, and lets Ingrid, who's not afraid to be a sexy Danish clichÇ spy, take him (as a prelude to seduction) through some of Manhattan's more disgusting kinky sex clubs—clubs that were frequented by the murder victim, a Danish consulate employee named Egil Ekdahl, who had his own perverse version of an Oedipus complex. Walsh punctuates numerous in-your-face close-ups of urban debauch with giddy flashbacks that reveal Ekdahl's true identity as a KGB spy who had something to do with a Russian defector who may have been a KGB spy with information about Lee Harvey Oswald and a plot to kill John F. Kennedy. The story falls apart when Byrne's sputtering, mean-spirited brother Tom, an FBI agent, swaggers onto the scene with revelations about Cold War sexual blackmail and the news that nothing is as it seems, including their dear old mom. Byrne is forced to accept the notion that good and evil are relative in more ways the one. Crisply written and thoroughly preposterous mean-streeter. An afterword implies a factual basis to some of the author's fictive imaginings.