The method employed by Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment serves Price’s purpose—and then some—in his wrenching eighth novel (Samaritan, 2003, etc.).
This is the story of a NYC crime and its aftermath, focused on the perpetrators; the victims and their families; the cops who doggedly pursue the frailest threads of evidence and possibility; and the bustling, chaotic momentum of an ethnically mixed urban environment forever threatened by venality, violence and despair. It opens with a vivid cluster of parallel scenes, leading toward the early-morning incident that befalls restaurant manager Eric Cash (a wannabe actor/writer whose several careers are going nowhere) and two drinking companions, when two street punks with a gun make a demand and Eric’s coworker Ike Marcus offers a smiling reply—and is gunned down. Eric’s version of events raises justifiable suspicions, and shapes his subsequent baffled progress toward understanding himself. Veteran homicide cop Matty Clark and his soulful Latina partner Yolonda Bello hit the streets, while attempting to deflect and relieve the crushing sorrow that circumscribes Ike’s dad Billy. And never-had-a-chance, virtually family-less teenager Tristan Acevedo channels his rage into fantasies of empowerment, composing inchoate, menacing “poetry,” while struggling with his demons. Price offers a profane vernacular feast of raw dialogue. And as Matty and Yolonda (subordinating their embattled personal lives to the task at hand) draw nearer to the truth, Price tells their stories in a complex structure of juxtaposed scenes that ratchets up the tension. The only thing even close to a flaw in this book is its plot’s surface resemblance to that of Clockers. But this time Price digs deeper, and the pain is sharper.
There oughta be a law requiring Richard Price to publish more frequently. Because nobody does it better. Really. No time, no way.