“‘Hey’, how’s it going,’ Billy said as he took a seat.
‘The meat’s so tough that it got up off the plate and beat the shit out of the coffee, which was too weak to defend itself.’
‘No Kidding’.'” (The Whites by Harry Brandt)
This book is 100% atmosphere. Its tired, aging, loaded characters bounce off one another, trading witticisms and partially senseless metaphors. Its settings, hastily drawn and unexceptionally gritty, take on the shape of the characters they surround. Throughout, Brandt hides his age-old plot behind an overwhelming sense of complexity and expertly worded phrases.
As a self-professed fantasy fan and infrequent mystery reader, I find a certain refreshment in the non-heroism of Brandt’s characters. They don’t have any special abilities to deal with the murderers, sickness, or stalkers they’re faced with. They aren’t superhumanly bright, particularly good at fighting, nor do they have loyal sidekicks. Mainly, they just want to make it through their shifts, check to see that their families haven’t been murdered in their beds, then have a drink. Occasionally they find grace in forgiveness. Other times, they find peace in realizing that there are no ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’, just people doing what they need to survive.
Buy – Borrow – TBR – Avoid
Ending: Hopeful but realistic
Incidental Learning: NYPD culture, 3rd shift workers
Admittedly, I haven’t read too many gritty mysteries, but this reminds me of the equally atmospheric No Bad Deed
by M. Ryan Seaver.