This weekend Small Crimes received its second review from a South African newspaper--the first one was a good review from The Citizen. This one was from the Weekender section of Business Day, and what made this very cool--other than being reviewed in another country and continent--was that Small Crimes was reviewed with two Richard Stark books. Anyway, here's Business Day's review for Small Crimes:
Noir fiction from the villains' perspective
Business Day (South Africa), February 14, 2009
JOE Denton is a former cop born in the small New England town of Bradley, where he lived with his childhood sweetheart and their two pretty blonde daughters.
He played quarterback for the high school football team, and has only been out of the county a few times and then never more than a four-hour drive away. His father and his grandfather before him both worked as Bradley firemen. His mother did volunteer work at the town library. Really a slice of the perfect Norman Rockwell existence.
Except that Joe ended up a degenerate: a cop on the take, a hard-drinking cocaine user with a serious gambling habit.
He ended up serving seven years for carving up the face of District Attorney Phil Oakley with a letter-opener, when the DA caught him trying to torch incriminating files relating to an investigation against him.
Small Crimes opens with Denton released into Bradley, where his crimes have not endeared him to the tightly knit community. It hasn't helped that Oakley, with much of his nose missing and his face strips of rawhide, patched together with a Frankenstein-like crisscross of stitches, is still the DA - a daily, discomfiting reminder to the townsfolk of the terrible assault.
Denton has done the time but no one is in any hurry to forget the crime. His wife and children have left the state, leaving no forwarding address.
His parents can barely look him in the eye, and his corrupt former fellow officers are terrified that the vengeful Oakley might have accumulated enough evidence to put Denton - and hence them - away for an array of crimes committed while he was a cop.
He is presented with a stark choice: do the job properly on Oakley or kill the local Mafia don, Manny Vassey, who is dying of cancer and toying with singing to the DA, in the hope of cutting a belated pre-Paradise deal with God.
One can begin to understand how, in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of small towns, criminal rehabilitation is never easy.
Take a guy like Denton, hated and feared in equal measure, and one knows he does not have much of a chance.
Zeltserman is a relatively unknown young novelist but has mixed together an explosive Molotov cocktail of a book. This is a dark shocker, a downward spiral of violence, betrayal, manipulation and tragic misunderstanding, which achieves what seems impossible at the outset - empathy for the craven Denton.