THE BRONX KILL by Philip Cioffari


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An obsessed detective seeks revenge upon three men for his brother’s drowning death in Cioffari’s (Dark Road, Dead End, 2016, etc.) thriller.

Danny Baker, Charlie Romano, Johnny Whalen, and Tim Mooney once called themselves “the Renegades.” Five years ago, they all tried to swim across a channel called the Bronx Kill, along with Julianne Regan, whose attention Danny and Charlie were vying for. But the current was too strong, and only three people stepped out of the water; police fished out Tim’s body the following day, but never found Julianne’s. Still, the remaining trio’s reunion in the present-day Bronx should have been a happy one; Johnny, who left the seminary, is marrying his longtime girlfriend, Lorraine. Unfortunately, Tim’s detective brother, Tommy Mooney, is making them all anxious, as he relentlessly questions them about the fateful night years before. Tommy is positive that at least one Renegade is somehow responsible for his brother’s demise, and he further proposes that Julianne’s body wasn’t recovered because she made it across the channel alive. One thing is unmistakable: Tommy wants to mete out some kind of punishment. But after Charlie is attacked in what initially seems to be a gang initiation, he, Danny, and Johnny guess that Tommy was actually behind it. Eventually, they must all confront a bleak memory. Cioffari incorporates a sturdy mystery into his story—what exactly transpired at the Kill isn’t revealed at the outset—but it’s the brooding atmosphere that truly packs a punch. The author fills the pages with recurring images that act as reminders of impending menace: Tommy’s Mercury Marquis (ominously identified as “the black Merc”); the aforementioned Kill; and Charlie’s bar, the MoonGlow, which alludes to the Mooneys and particularly Tim’s nickname, “the Moon.” There are countless unnerving moments, such as when Johnny swears that he’s seen his dead friend in the flesh, or when Tommy claims that he has a witness to the alleged crime. Still, Cioffari allows ample room to flesh out his characters, particularly Danny, who shares a few sublime, emotional scenes with his widower father.

Readers will gladly lose themselves in this novel’s sense of foreboding.

Publisher: Livingston Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:


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