Boston, 1963. A city on edge. On street corners, newsboys hawk the shocking headline: KENNEDY IS DEAD. In the city's underworld, a mob war rages. But what terrifies Bostonians most is the mysterious killer who has already claimed a dozen victims, a murderer whose name is indelibly linked to their city: the Boston Strangler. This is the electrifying backdrop of William Landay's magnificent new novel, a story of one Irish-American family, a city under siege, and the long shadow cast by the most infamous killer of his day . . .
For the three Daley brothers, sons of a Boston cop, crime is the family business. They are simply on different sides of it. Joe is the eldest, a tough-talking cop whose gambling habits--fast women, slow horses--drag him down into the city's gangland. Michael is the middle son; a Harvard-educated lawyer working for an ambitious attorney general, he finds himself assigned to the embattled Strangler task force. And Ricky, the devil-may-care youngest son, floats above the fray as an expert burglar--until the Strangler strikes too close to home.
As Joe's mob debts close in around him . . . and Michael becomes snarled in a murder investigation gone very wrong . . . and Ricky is hunted by both sides of the law, the three brothers--and the women who love them--are forced to take sides. Now each must look deeper into a killer's murderous rage, into their family's own lethal secrets, and into the one death that has changed them forever. As William Landay's complex, compassionate, and terrifying novel builds to a climax, two mysteries will collide--and a shattering truth will be revealed.
Set in Boston in 1963, Landay's engrossing crime novel is less about the titular strangler than the three Irish-American Daley brothers: Ricky, a thief; Michael, a lawyer; and Joe, a bent cop. A year earlier, the Daleys' father, also a cop, was fatally shot on the job, and the killer has never been caught. The father's partner on the force, Brendan Conroy, has insinuated himself into the family to the point that he's now sleeping with the brothers' mother, Margaret, and is a permanent fixture at Sunday dinner, much to the disgust of Michael and Ricky. Landay (Mission Flats) movingly explores the bonds of family and basic questions of honesty and loyalty. While the novel suggests another killer than the historical Boston Strangler, the emphasis remains on such themes as crime and punishment, love and honor, truth and justice. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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January 31, 2007
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Excerpt from The Strangler by William Landay
In the subway: twenty swaying grief-stunned faces. A man insensible of his own leg pistoning up and down, tapping tat-tat-tat-tat-tat on the floor. At Boylston Street the track curved, the steel wheels shrieked against the rails, and the lights flickered off. Passengers let their eyes close, like a congregation beginning a silent prayer. When the lights came on again and their eyes opened, Ricky Daley was watching them.
At Park Street station, Ricky jogged up the stairs to the street, into a stagnant crowd. Offices had closed early, creating an early rush hour, but there was nowhere to go. The news was everywhere, still sensational though everyone had already heard it. Newsboys squawked "Extra!" and "Read it hee-yuh!" and "Exclusive!" They lingered on the hissing alien word "Ass-sass-inated!" Over on Tremont Street, crowds clumped against parked cars to listen to the news on WBZ; they bowed their heads toward the car radios. But there was no real news, no one knew anything, so eventually they turned away, they loitered on the sidewalk, and shambled in and out of the Common. It was midafternoon, three hours or so after-after President Kennedy first slapped at his neck as if he'd been stung by a bee-three hours after but the concussed mood was not dissipating. It was deepening, and more and more the stupor was infused with anxiety: What was next? From what direction would the attack come? How in the hell would they all get through this?
Ricky strolled right through them, working his way west. It was quieter in the Common, away from the street. No one seemed to be speaking. No one knew what to say. In the quiet he could make out the murmur of the city, distant engines and car horns and cops' whistles. He wore a gray overcoat and an itchy hundred-and-twenty-five-dollar suit. His shoes, new black brogans, made squinching sounds when he walked. He had tried to soften them by wearing them around his apartment, but they still pinched across the top of his feet. He had succeeded, at least, in dulling the gloss of the leather by rubbing it with saliva. The shoes should look polished but not new. New shoes might draw attention.
By the Frog Pond, a woman on a slatted park bench held a handkerchief to her mouth, balled up in her fist. Her eyes were watery. Ricky stopped to offer her the stiff new handkerchief tri-folded in his jacket pocket.
"Here," he said.
"Go on, I don't use them. It's just for show."
Ricky gazed up, granting her the privacy to mop her nose.
"Who would do such a thing?" The woman sniffled.
Ricky looked down again, and he detected a shy grin at the corners of her mouth. Smile, he thought. Go on.
"Who would do this?"
Go ahead and smile. Because who could deny there was a little secret pleasure in it? Kennedy was dead, but they had never felt quite so alive. All these nine-to-five suckers, all the secretaries and waitresses and Edison men-it was as if they had all been drowsing for years only to snap awake, here, together, inside this Great Day. Ricky thought that, if he wanted to, he could explore this girl for information (where did she work? did she have a key? was there an opportunity there?). She was available. Probably she felt a little intoxicated by this feeling of nowness. Until today, she had never felt so thrillingly present in each moment. It was a limitation of human consciousness: We live only in the future and past, we cannot perceive now. Now occupies no space, a hypothetical gap between future and past. Only an exceptional few could feel now, athletes and jazzmen and, yes, thieves like Ricky Daley, and even for them the sensation was fleeting, limited to the instant of creative action. Cousy knew the feeling; Miles Davis, too. The boundless improvisational moment.