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 In his first novel since his NBA-winner Paris Trout (1988), Dexter tells the story of two cousins raised in a mob family in South Philadelphia. Peter Flood is only eight when he loses his little sister (to a neighbor's skidding car), then his grief-shattered mother (to a mental hospital), and finally his father Charley, ex-roofer and union boss. This is 1961; the Irish Floods control union jobs, the Italians and their aging boss Constantine control the streets. Disregarding Constantine's warning, Charley kills his aforementioned neighbor, an on-the-take cop, whereupon he is escorted to a meeting by his brother Phil from which he never returns. Not surprisingly, the relationship between the taciturn Peter and his uncle Phil, and sadistic cousin Michael, will be tense and wary. ``Youse are brothers,'' declares Phil; but that doesn't stop Michael from bashing his sleeping cousin with a hammer. Peter's refuge is the boxing gym run by Nick DiMaggio, a warmhearted type who builds while the mob destroys; nonetheless, when Phil is killed by the Italians (avenging the earlier rubout of Constantine), Peter agrees to help Michael reestablish control. Only when Michael orders Nick and his son Harry to be hit does Peter rebel, shooting his cousin at point-blank range. This novel is as dark as Paris Trout but lacks its narrative power, which derived from Trout's indomitable will battling the townsfolk. Here there is a similar tension in the fine opening section, Charley listening to his blood, his union brothers trying to stop the unstoppable; after that, the novel drifts and stalls. Peter is too passive for a struggle between the cousins to develop; nothing comes of the rumored war between the Irish and the Italians. We settle for a slow dance around Michael, a vicious creep but not big enough to pull everything together.*justify no*

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1991
ISBN: 0-394-58573-9
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991


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