A violent work of fiction set in the treacherous village of Foursquare, N.Y.
Teenager Stephen Laragia likes his reputation as “Mayor of Crazytown,” the epitome of a kid out of control; smoking marijuana and drinking too much suits him fine. Stephen has seen the worst in humanity—as a teen, a priest molested him repeatedly—and he enacts a plan to do something about it. First, he kills the priest; then, he kills his neighbor who’s raping his teenage daughter. (Those murders, along with lots of cursing and general wantonness, happen in just the first 40 pages.) After Stephen gets married, he finds his wife’s parents ruthlessly murdered. His internal debate rages through the rest of the book as he ponders how to exact revenge. Madrid’s (A Kiss Before I Die, 2013, etc.) novel quickly takes the reader down a very dark alley, and despite the novel’s brutality and sexuality, it’s hard to turn away from Foursquare’s complex, well-drawn characters. People and places start out likable, only to quickly turn dark and ugly—a noirish style that suits the story well. In one scene, Laragia attempts to strangle the man who purposefully drove his vehicle into his in-laws’ car: “The old man rose swiftly, towering over me, his throat cut and bleeding, the wire dangling from his neck. He saw my face and roared: a desperate, brutish yell, and as he wailed he thrust his elbows back and his hands seemed like talons, and in that light he seemed more monster than human.” Madrid has a raw, masculine writing style reminiscent of Fight Club (1996) author Chuck Palahniuk, and there’s both style and substance here, electrifying the pages with clever dialogue, dirty humor, smart character development and base humanity. If readers can keep calm amid the violence, they’ll walk away looking forward to Madrid’s next story—and wondering where he could possibly go next.
A powerfully written crime story of corruption and depravity.