A dark thriller in which two misfits take on the corrupt Boston political system with revenge as their mantra.
Boston, 1951: a ready-built noir setting. It's gray and winter-cold, and men spend their time in grimy bars where drugs and violence rule. O’Malley and Purdy write cinematically, building the bleakness of the city and its denizens around Scollay Square into the fabric of the fiction, with the city itself becoming a primary character. “The radiators pinged and rattled, and the lower sections of the windows that looked out on the avenue were filmed with steam. From the windows they could see the vacant expanse that Scollay Square was becoming.” Cal O’Brien and Dante Cooper are childhood friends, each with his own poisonous issues. Cal has returned from World War II France with a limp and a drinking problem, killing the pain and the recurring dreams of death with booze. Dante is a junkie, spun out of control after he watched his wife overdose. Secrets and broken people populate these winter streets. Dante’s sister-in-law, Sheila, is found brutally murdered, assumed to be another victim of the Butcher who's been stalking women in Boston and torturing them in an abandoned trailer. But when Dante and Cal take on the task of hunting the killer as a family matter, the facts veer abruptly to big money and an old neighborhood pal now running for Senate. Congressman and candidate Michael Foley had an affair with Sheila, and his brother Blackie, a punk gangster in the old neighborhood, cleans up the messes Michael makes along the path to election. When Blackie goes too far and murders Cal’s wife because he's getting close to the truth, the hunt for a killer becomes all-out war.
This is a bone-crunching, gut-wrenching novel that captures the atmosphere of a city in decay and its inhabitants. It delivers noir fiction like we always want it to be.