The link to three murderous incidents, in which dozens of people are killed, is Jerry Pankow. Jerry cleans up other people's messes for a living. He likes to say he visits three bars and a whorehouse before breakfast every day. Then a private client, Marilyn Fairchild is strangled. The prostitutes and madam in the whorehouse are brutally murdered. The three bars are firebombed.
John Blair Creighton, a modestly successful writer, is arrested for Fairchild's murder. Amazingly, the publicity surrounding his arrest turns his ho-hum career around Major publishers bid madly for the rights to his next book – one he has not yet even started.
The setting for “Small Town” is New York City, shortly after the World Trade Tower bombings of Sept. 11, 2001. The attack, while not central to the story, is a backdrop for the events and characters.
Like the people of small towns everywhere, New Yorkers are interconnected in a web of relationships and coincidences. There's former Police Chief Francis Buckram, for whom catching the serial killer becomes an obsession.
There's Susan Pomerance, an art dealer who discovers that kinky sex is possibly the only thing that can keep her sane. Her circle of lovers widens to include many of the other characters.
There's Maury Winters, the attorney who represents Creighton and gives his sexual partner Susan free legal advice. Working with Maury is private investigator Jim Galvin, whose drinking almost destroys his career until he comes up with the insight that get Creighton off the hook for murder.
There's also the mysterious “Carpenter,” so named by the New York press because the weapons he used to murder several prostitutes and their madam were a hammer and a chisel.
This report prepared by David Gordon
Morrow, Jan 2003, 24.95, 448 pp.
New York, New York is a wonderful town even after 9/11 though the locals react differently to the devastation, but for the most part try to get on with life. However, while many still mourn, someone responds quite differently to the mass deaths. This unknown assailant may have snapped, but the first victim of his wrath is East Village realtor Marilyn Fairchild. The cops quickly arrest author John Blair Creighton, who was in her home the night she was strangled, but his lawyer, stricken Maury Winters, makes a case for a link to the murders of two prostitutes and their madam. John has an alibi that proves he could not have killed that trio.
Alcoholic cleaner Jerry Pankow discovered the corpses of the hookers, but soon the police look at him as the possible culprit as the killer blows up three of his customers and bars. As the death toll mounts, the city still reeling from 9/11 cannot cope with the Carpenter, a craftsman who leaves quite a deadly calling card.
SMALL TOWN is a powerful suspense thriller in which Lawrence Block takes his audience around the blocks of the five boroughs of New York in a post 9/11 homage to the great international city. The story line is fast-paced as the Carpenter performs his craft while others are pulled inside his sphere whether they choose to be or not. The key characters are all fully developed including the Big Apple that seems as much a protagonist as the cast. Mr. Block provides what might be his best novel to date with this intelligent taut thriller.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner