This book and this author have gotten rave reviews, so I tried it. At first I was put off by the violence and harsh language, I almost gave up. Then slowly, I got hooked. It is basically a crime story that takes place on Manhattan's Lower East Side. However, the story has many, many complex layers. It deals with history, and the hopes and dreams of the people who have lived in this neighborhood over the years. A bright young white man is murdered in the shadow of a building that was home to his family generations ago. The author gives us glimpses of the past through message left behind from long dead immigrants that lived in the neighborhood in the early 20th century. He also questions whether the minority residents of the area today have any hopes for a real future.
NYPD Det. Matty Clark and his partner Yolanda are trying to figure out who shot Ike Marcus. They make mistakes, they follow leads, but most of all they follow the violent rhythm of the neighborhood and its hopeless housing projects. Price introduces us to life in the projects and shows us how teenage boys reach manhood in their brutal world. Yolanda is kind and caring on one level, but on another she is liar that will do anything thing to get a confession out of a potential criminal.
Meanwhile Matty Clark has his own family problems. He has an estranged relationship with his sons that have lived up-state with their mother since a divorce broke the family apart years ago. Matty's sons are dealing marijuana and get caught. While Matty tries to help Ike Marcus' father deal with the death of his son and any regrets he had over not spending more time with his son, Matty comes to realize that his sons are in danger too.
The Lower East Side has become a place where young hip artists come to party and reach for their dreams. In Eric Cash, the aspiring-writer and restaurant manager, Price gives us a sense of time running out for reaching that career goal. Through Cash we see the reality of the neighborhood and how people struggle to reach their dream, but then turn to drugs and alcohol to escape from the reality of their existence. We see the neighborhood's prosperity as a façade, and in the end that façade is duplicated in a Disney-like setting in an Atlantic City Casino.
Once again, the language is rough, the situations are violent and the message is dark, but it is worth reading.