ON THE ROPES by Tom Schreck


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Duffy Dombrowski: heart of a social worker, schnoz of a shamus.

Duffy is a caseworker at Jewish Unified Services in Crawford, N.Y., a small city 50 miles north of the Big Apple. But it won’t take readers long to realize Duffy doesn’t run to type. Consider his approach to moonlighting, for instance—Duffy boxes. He’s what’s known in the fight game as a “professional opponent,” which means promoters rely on him to lose respectably to their up-and-comers. During the day, Duffy exhibits negligible tolerance for the minutiae of his job (paperwork) bringing him into constant conflict with his detail-loving boss, Claudia Michelin. The cold war between them boils over when client Walanda Frazier dies violently in prison. Before her passing, Walanda, a crackhead with a “dash of schizophrenia” was the sort Claudia regarded as the epitome of inconvenience. Duffy, on the other hand, believes the beset and bedeviled Walanda embodied their reason for being. He also believes she was murdered, and that it’s incumbent on him to do something about that. “Dombrowski for Hire,” cop friend Mike Kelly says in a discouraging tone. But, of course, Duffy, who clearly has sleuthing in his DNA, doesn’t discourage easily. And then there’s the core truth he admits to only reluctantly: “I like helping people no one else wants to help.”

Occasionally over the top, but warmhearted, tough, funny Duffy makes it a promising debut.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-7387-1114-0
Page count: 360pp
Publisher: Midnight Ink/Llewellyn
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2007


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