DEATH HAS ITS BENEFITS by Ronald  Aiken

DEATH HAS ITS BENEFITS

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this hard-boiled suspense novel, an unwitting attorney tracks the sleazy underside of New York City into his home, where it infects his marriage and his life.

Poor Leo. With friends like Tony Benson, who needs enemies? Nonetheless, Leo has enemies—at least that’s what he repeatedly tells Tony, his workout buddy. Unconcerned and dismissive of Leo’s delusional assertion that his boss is out to kill him, Tony moves in on Leo’s wife, Trudy. But an odd incident proves that Leo was actually in his right mind. Then, when Tony’s life is also threatened, he finds he’s losing his own grip on reality. Tony’s cynical attitude remains, however, even as his life goes from bland to black. Author Aiken turned up the testosterone to create this tale of corruption, blackmail and amorality, where few of the characters are likable; the ones who are cut their losses when and if they can. Thugs, strippers, con men and crooked cops make up a roll call fleshed out by nearly sociopathic colleagues; only the women seem to react sensibly and see things clearly. Tony is decidedly unsympathetic: He cheats, disrespects and makes one bad decision after another. He only delves into Leo’s predicament out of a sense of repayment—Leo once saved him from a mugging—rather than loyalty and affection for his longtime “friend.” Yet there’s something riveting about Tony’s slide from normalcy to paranoia to a nadir of his own making. The settings, which Aiken captures in a highly visual style, are equally on the edge of ruin, especially amid the dank odors of the Horror View gym and the spine-tingling creepiness of Pilgrim State Hospital, New York’s draconian, real-life mental institution, where both Leo and Tony find themselves. Told in short, snappy chapters with sharp, wiseass dialogue, the story gains speed about a third of the way through as it builds into a thrilling ride to hell.

Readers willing to enter an edgy, seamy world will enjoy this dark and fatalistic tale.

Pub Date: July 31st, 2012
Page count: 281pp
Publisher: Nightbird Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2012




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