Cass (Burton’s Solo, 2019, etc.) returns to his favorite bar owner and cop in this fourth installment of a detective series.
Things are changing around the old Esposito, the Boston dive that recovering alcoholic Elder Darrow has been dutifully attempting to turn into a reputable bar offering “jazz on the weekends.” Now “you could drink without getting into a fist fight,” Elder drolly brags, “and step outside to smoke without worrying about being mugged.” But there’s a new mob boss in the neighborhood—Donald Maldonado—who has sent one of his underlings around asking about Elder’s on-the-run ex-girlfriend, talented thief Kathleen Crawford. Elder has no idea where she is because Kathleen doesn’t want him to know. Under the name Nina, Kathleen is currently hiding out at the Boston Pre-Release Center. But while on work release at the paupers’ grave on Rinker Island, she accidentally discovers a corpse that shouldn’t be there: a man in an expensive suit with a bullet wound in his head. Elder’s friend homicide detective Dan Burton is called in to investigate the death (and recognizes Kathleen, still at the scene). The dead man turns out to be a local activist with enemies among the city’s rich and powerful, some of the same forces who are currently trying to bring the Olympics to Boston—and tear down half the city to prepare for it. Among the possible targets: the Esposito itself. Cass’ prose is wonderfully textured, evoking both the Boston weather and the fatalistic attitudes of the city’s denizens: “The sun was the color of weak lemonade in a washed-out blue sky, but at least the wind wasn’t blowing in off the water anymore.” The plot is quick and engrossing, and at the center of the crimes and detective work is a highly relatable story of a man who can’t decide whether to cling to the past or surrender to the future. Fans of the previous books in the series will appreciate this offering, but those new to the Esposito can also enjoy this self-contained narrative—and maybe even become regulars.
An immersive and satisfying addition to the category of Boston crime fiction.