The evil that stalks 42nd St.–the â€œnaughty, bawdyâ€¦Forty-Deuce” of the title–reaches its tentacles from the genteel West Village to the Bronx to a mansion in Newport, R.I., from strip joints to the highest levels of city administration.
Doherty, an attorney for the New York Department of Education, earns his living putting away bad guys who prey on kids. Victor Maura, whom students call Mr. Maggot, has been accused of sexually abusing a sixth-grade girl, and Doherty needs the testimony of 14-year-old Michelle, who witnessed the abuse, to seal the case. The daughter of a crack addict who’s been raised by her aunt and uncle, Michelle disappears the day she is to testify. Worried that she will disappear into the world of child prostitution, Doherty follows her trail, encountering drug dealers, hookers, pimps and crime bosses along the way. He crosses paths with Michelle’s friend Tamika, the 18-year-old lesbian lover of Marcelle Utrillo, a high-ranking official in the chancellor of education’s office. Utrillo’s West Village brownstone may hold the secret to Michelle’s disappearance–and to other things involving underage girls that she doesn’t want to come to light. Trybulski (The Ides of June, 2008), a former felony prosecutor in the district attorney’s office in Brooklyn, N.Y., who is now in private practice, weaves a tight plot. The good guys go all out to stop evildoing, and the evildoers, especially the Maggot and Utrillo, set themselves up for a dramatic fall. It’s a bit black-and-white, but the author weaves in some unexpected twists to keep the story engaging. Unfortunately, Doherty is a mystery wrapped in a GQ wardrobe. The reader learns a lot about him–street-savvy lawyer who roughs up a pimp on the Deuce, dusts off his Johnston & Murphy’s and drives his Porsche Boxster to his manse in Connecticut, where he stretches out with his three cats and a venerable French wine–but what makes him tick is never revealed. A character flaw, or weakness, would make him more believable. (His tone-deaf patter with his girlfriend, the willowy Dana McPherson, almost does the trick.)
An intriguing, if not quite perfect, look at how crime and corruption link high and low society in New York City.