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A gritty tale of a drunken loser who finally develops some self-esteem when his violence escalates to murder.

All his life Pauli Bortolo has tried to get others to take him seriously, but his wild boasts have earned him nothing more than an embarrassing nickname. When fellow barfly Cadillac Joey Glass comes into Freddy’s Place complaining of marital woes, Pauli sees his chance: He’ll kill Joey’s wife’s lover, and everyone will have to respect him. He will be “Bullshit” Pauli no more; he will be Pauli the Man. This decision triggers a rapid psychological deterioration. Soon his life is careening wildly off-course: His codependent wife has finally had enough, his union brothers are looking to make a very physical–and painful–example out of him, three different police detectives are searching for him, and a professional killer is close on his heels, just awaiting her moment. Tkachuck carefully interweaves these storylines to bring Pauli’s story to a dramatic climax. However, what momentum the story gains from this ambitious attempt is lost when the plot fails to unfold with substantial suspense. The author tends to assert that something is a character’s only possible course of action rather than to actually demonstrate it. Thus, Joey’s attempts to cope with his spiraling Pauli problem are determined by narrative necessity rather than logic or common sense. Similarly, the intelligence of Dusty Rhodes, the primary detective in pursuit of Pauli, dips only when the tale’s suspense needs a boost. Only two of Tkachuck’s characters are even somewhat sympathetic: Stella (Pauli’s battered wife) and Moses (a homeless man with a tragic history whom Pauli frames). Others remain one-dimensional, lacking clear motivation and leaving little to motivate the reader to stick with the story long enough to appreciate the ultimately dovetailing of the different storylines.

A thin story overloaded with exposition and undermined by thin character delineation.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 978-1-4010-4010-9
Page count: 330pp
Program: Kirkus Indie
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