In this debut thriller, Reeves’ Brooklyn is a dark, desperate world populated by gangs, lechers, bums, addicts and murderers.
Richie Bucceroni is not your typical aging Italian from Brooklyn. He is a professor of chemistry at a Brooklyn college and an expert on the sometimes deadly effects of chemicals and drugs. When a student is found murdered with a sickly smile on his face, Richie knows it may be the result of ingesting brucine—a chemical that was recently the topic of one of his student lectures. Realizing that someone has broken into his chemical locker, Richie turns to his childhood friend detective Dominick Mancini to help solve the case. The problem is, people keep turning up dead: first a fellow professor and then the owner of the local liquor store. When Richie narrowly avoids catching a bullet himself, he realizes that he’s now the killer’s target. The only other person Richie can trust is his laboratory assistant, Candy, who teams up with him to help identify and track the murderer. Reeves’ Brooklyn is not pretty: Richie witnesses several instances of street violence, and his students, who “could not really read, write or figure at any acceptable grade level,” are seemingly all involved in gangs and drugs. The borough of Brooklyn figures so prominently that it almost becomes a character itself and provides a vivid, if desolate, sense of place. In this world of violence and apathy, it’s understandable that Richie only trusts two people. He uses humor to offset the bleak environment, and while it can be heavy-handed and repetitious (he jokes several times about the smell of a set of workout clothes), Richie is an affably self-effacing protagonist. But even the most desensitized readers may be offended by Richie’s and Mancini’s racist and sexist remarks. The ending is left wide open for a sequel, and those who don’t mind a little grit and gloom will likely want to spend more time with the sardonic chemistry professor.
Reeves’ tenebrous world should appeal to ardent fans of hard-boiled fiction.