How many drug dealers, dirty cops, lowlifes, and hapless victims does it take to screw up a $50 million shipment of the drug Ecstasy? When the assorted players are as desperate or dumb as the cast of this bleakly amusing, noir-saturated saga, even more than you might think.
In the beginning, things seem simple enough for run-of-the-mill crook Raymond Gaspar. Just released from a four-year prison stretch but in no mood to go straight, he stands to make a decent score working for leading dealer Gloria Ocampo, who is a lot tougher than her middle-aged looks would suggest. One of her clients is Shadrack Pullman, a pill salesman who calls himself the "Molly Man"—Molly being slang for the drug in its purest form. Shadrack, of course, is not to be trusted, and Gloria's high-living, Miami-based Israeli suppliers, Semion Rosenstein and Isaak Raskin, aren't the most reliable operators either. Their exploits get them into deeper and deeper trouble with their suppliers in Burma; the sordid mishaps of their Thailand associate, Moisey Segal, only make matters worse. There will be blood—more in one gruesome scene than a character could ever have imagined. Divided into five distinct parts, with the final one circling back on the first, the book is distinguished by its virtuoso set pieces. In a nasty tour de force, Isaak, a wealthy club owner, falls so hard for a drop-dead Brazilian beauty calling herself Vanya that even after she sets him up seven ways to Sunday, he can't stop obsessing over her. Such is Hoffman's mastery of tone you don't know whether to laugh or groan.
With its hard-boiled shenanigans and soft-minded crooks, Hoffman's follow-up to The White Van (2014) is another strong and original addition to the crime fiction genre.