Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review of Pariah by Dave Zeltserman (Serpent’s Tail, 2009)

Kyle Nevin has just been released after serving eight years for armed robbery, sold out to the FBI by Red Mahoney, the boss of South Boston Irish Mob. Nevin used to be Mahoney’s right hand man, the enforcer who did his bosses bidding, whether than be breaking arms and legs, intimidating local businesses or robbing banks. Nevin only has one thing on his mind – to raise enough funds that he can go after Mahoney – and nothing is going to distract him from the task. His first job is to rescue his younger brother from going straight, then carry out a job that will net millions. If that means leaving a trail of destruction in his wake, so be it.

If you like dark, gritty noir realism, then you need to read Dave Zeltserman’s books. The first person narratives of his prison release trilogy drop you into the world of troubled men and paint extraordinary rich characters. Pariah is no different. Kyle Nevin is driven by a grim determination to rule by fear and to seek whatever he desires by any means except those legitimate. He professes to have a moral code of sorts – sticking by family and brothers in arms – but everyone else is fair game. Ultimately though he’s fighting a battle of himself against the world and he’s prepared to do anything to make sure the world loses. At times, the feeling of realism in Zeltserman’s writing is disturbing, especially in the first half of the book. The second half felt a little rushed at times, with a few key events a little underdeveloped, taking up very little of the narrative and quickly moving on. The twist at the end was clever, but felt a tad contrived. I also felt that the whole Whitey Bulger riff was a bit tired, explored in other books such as Adrian McKinty’s Bloomsbury set and Richard Marinick’s Boyos, and no doubt others. As a result, in my view, Pariah was a good read, but not quite on the same par as the other two books in the prison release trilogy: Small Crimes and Killer. Given how stellar those two books are that’s no great criticism. To repeat: if you like noir read Zeltserman, you won’t be disappointed.

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