Debut thriller set within the neo-noir confines of New York’s East Village. The East Village is not what most people would consider a nice place to raise a family, and p.i. Payton Sherwood is no one’s idea of a good family man. It comes as no surprise to him that he loses his child-custody suit in Syracuse and has to head home to Second Avenue alone and broke. What does throw him is having his gold Rolex stolen by the teenage girl he defends against three street thugs looking for heroin in the shadows of St. Mark’s Church. Some gratitude. But Sherwood has his ways: The next day he returns to the scene of the crime and finds a telephone beeper dropped by the girl in the course of the màlÇe, and that’s all he needs to start the wheels rolling. It turns out that the girl is one Gloria Manlow, a homeless kid from Vermont who has made her way through most of the rock clubs, art studios, NYU dorms, and heroin dens of that part of town. Sherwood gets his Rolex back in short order, but by then the investigation has taken on a life of its own, several corpses already down and a few more on the way. Ordinarily, Sherwood doesn—t go in for pro bono work, but this case has too many loose ends to resist. Who were the skinheads Sherwood saw shaking Gloria down for smack? Who killed the German photographer Gloria posed for? Who runs Ellis Dee productions, and what did Gloria’s dead boyfriend Jimmy have to do with them? Sherwood goes at it like a pro, asking the right questions and faking the right answers until he’s in it as deeply as Gloria herself. Which may have been his strategy all along. Good suspense, plenty of action, and great local color add up to a winner. How long before Payton rides again?