ANIMUS by Phil Keith


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A serpentine piece of suspense about one man settling a demented personal grudge while wiping out a good portion of a tony resort community.

The eastern end of Long Island, N.Y.–playground of the superrich–is no stranger to squalid crimes, but the sexually charged murder of the detective chief’s friend was truly heinous. “After thirty-two years in the business, you’d think I’d have seen it all,” says Chief James Griffin. “Much to my ultimate regret, today would prove that I hadn’t.” Those 32 years have made Griffin a tad hard-bitten (“You know it’s going to be a shitty day when you’re [sic] best evidence is a pile of puke,”) and they also allow him to say things like, “I smell a rat,” and get away with it. The villain is a well-drawn slimeball still smarting from having been ousted from his wealthy Jewish family due to his homosexuality. He’s deeply resentful of his culture, yet most of all plain greedy. As the cast of characters grows and the twists in the plot become knotty (sometimes ethically), Keith plays his cards close to the vest, showing them only as needed to maintain pace or keep the action coherent, gradually putting flesh on the bones of the story. The writing is lively and polychromatic, and the tale wild, though thoroughly possible, with a satisfying tactical-operations element. There are a few ham-handed segues, including a passage in which the protagonist declares, “I am not one for nostalgic rumination,” whereupon he launches into nostalgic rumination with sure-footed gusto. Further, by the time readers are fully up to speed on Griffin’s background (his impoverished childhood, stint at Brown University, brave military career, meteoric police career, trouble with drink and rejection of power and glitter for a small-town detective life) he may be a bit too perfect a piece of work. Soon afterward, though, the author executes a crackerjack denouement, and readers will love him for it.

A crisp suspense story with understated polish.

Pub Date: May 10th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4196-9962-7
Program: Kirkus Indie
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