Auto mechanic Conway Sax’s inconsistent attempts to help a hard-used, hard-using kid, who reminds him of his estranged son, leads to disaster for both him and the kid and for a lot of other citizens of Framingham, Mass., as well.
There’s nothing especially likable about Gus Biletnikov, a small-time campus dealer who’s landed with a self-advertising whoop among the Barnburners, Sax’s AA chapter—certainly nothing that would justify pulping the elbow of a guy named Andrade just for selling the kid a crappy car. But Gus looks a bit like Roy, and Sax (The Whole Lie, 2012, etc.) can’t help feeling that befriending him might be a way of making amends for their spectacular falling out, especially after somebody shoots up Almost Home, the halfway house where Gus is staying, and leaves three guys dead, one of whom he probably mistook for Gus. While Sax is getting acquainted with Gus’ circle—his father, Peter, a coldhearted investment banker; his stepmother, Rinn, who’s about the same age as Gus but a lot better looking; his supplier, Teddy Pundo, whose gangster father, Charlie, would rather be tending to the jazz club he owns; and Donald Crump, a small-time entrepreneur who’s come back East from Houston to settle a score with Peter—Gus is getting high in his room at Almost Home with his college buddy Bradford Bloomquist, aka the Dude. When Sax finds out about Gus’ backsliding, he tosses the kid out, literally, and things rapidly go from bad to worse. By the time Sax is finally able to call it a day, five more cast members will be dead, with the survivors in no mood to brag about their good luck. Sax does come off parole, though.
As dark, soulful and violent as the title would suggest. There’s a real lullaby and some real shotguns.