A struggling writer gets caught up in crime in this New York City–based thriller from debut author Buck.
Esteemed, aging novelist Norman Pope suffers from the emotional weight of two past marriages, nagging prostate problems, persistent bunions and, perhaps most devastatingly of all, writer’s block. Unable to get any of his old writing juices flowing, Pope counsels a group of would-be writers in what is collectively called the Novel Club. When a well-liked member of the group goes missing, a search begins that ultimately entails murder, corporate crime and Pope becoming a wanted man. With no one but his club members and an old poet friend available to help him, he winds his way through the city as he’s simultaneously pursued by powerful bad guys and the NYPD. Pope is no seasoned Cold War agent or hard-boiled detective; he’s a curmudgeon who frequently needs to go to the bathroom. Anything having to do with a computer needs to be explained to him. The novelty of seeing him interact with the modern world lends him an amiable air, even if his story needs a solid edit. The book suffers from a peppering of typos that can halt otherwise tense moments. When one character remarks about the importance of a key being where he needs it to be, he says: “That key had better there.” Frequent scenes involving food and coffee-drinking don’t add much to the storyline, although the swift plotting is enjoyably paced. The last chapter ties everything together perhaps a little bit too tightly, but watching Pope adapt to the world around him holds its own reward.
A breezy, unpolished thriller with a digestible plot and a likable protagonist.