A New York prosecutor heads an investigation into the brutal murder of a child in this novel.
Hector Ruiz, a young boy in the Bronx addled with severe autism, is found savagely killed in his home—his neck is slit so deeply, he’s nearly decapitated. Bronx Assistant District Attorney Alex Greco catches the case, an especially disturbing one for him because he lost his own son, 3-year-old Jordan, also autistic. Alex never quite recovered from the tragedy, which ruined his marriage. Hector’s father, Norman, is an obvious suspect—coldly indifferent to his son, he has a history of wanton violence. In addition, he’s involved in a dangerous underworld of criminal activity that includes trafficking women and guns; the murder of his son could be a foe’s act of retribution for one of Norman’s countless sins. Norman’s brother-in-law, Oscar Carrera, is also a candidate for the crime: He suffers from debilitating mental illness and can become adrift in a fuguelike oblivion, losing track of days at a time. But as Alex digs deeper, he uncovers a much darker and more entangled web of iniquity that involves the sexual exploitation of children, a world chillingly described by Canaff (Copperhead Road, 2014). Meanwhile, Alex contemplates a bid for local public office but is haunted by a discomfiting family secret that could be unearthed by those who oppose him. The author sensitively chronicles the police investigation and the courtroom drama that ensue as well as Alex’s attempt to clamber out of his own despair.
Canaff, a former prosecutor, is a consultant who specializes in cases that involve the exploitation of children. His expertise is evident throughout the novel, expressed both in his depiction of the legal process and the gruesome world of sex trafficking. The beating heart of the plot is Alex’s own emotional struggle, affectingly conveyed. Alex tries to start anew in the wake of the trauma that changed his life but it’s not clear such a recommencement is available to him. As his girlfriend observes: “You live in a world framed by death, hon. All of it violent. You put yourself there. That’s fine, it’s a noble job, and you’re great at it. But I’m not sure you can step out of it.” While the murder mystery that unfolds is an unusually ghastly one—this material is not for fainthearted readers—it’s also intricately composed and dramatically enthralling. The author’s writing is quietly powerful—the prose is generally unadorned with literary embellishments and devices, a style that permits the plot itself to take center stage. Further, Canaff avoids the temptation of cinematic neatness in the tale’s denouement—even if the case is solved, the darkness of human life remains an imperishable mystery, an enigma he artfully presents with impressive authorial restraint.
A disturbing but intelligently crafted crime drama.