Like the vintage fiction of George V. Higgins, Gravesend is a crime novel where the crime itself takes a back seat to character, corner tap argot and local streets and alleys. It's set in the Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood that's still as the borough was before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and the hipsters invaded. Crowded with parish schools and dive taverns like Ralphie's ("a clammy sports bar full of fat cops and smooth Italian boys stinking of cologne"), it's an Italian Catholic place where church and family suffocate the young.
The plot is simple: for 16 years, Conway D'Innocenzio ("twenty-nine now, working at a goddamn Rite Aid on Eighty-Sixth Street, living with his old man") has been simmering with hatred for Ray Boy Calabrese, who bullied Conway's gay older brother to a panicked fatal dash into highway traffic. Ray Boy was put away for manslaughter, but with his release, Conway gets a pistol to take his revenge at last. After all these years of drifting, can he actually pull the trigger on his brother's tormentor and killer?
Originally published in 2013 by Broken River Books, Gravesend was also published in a French edition by Rivage/Noir; it was recognized by the noir-loving French with a place on the 2017 Prix Polar SNCF shortlist. It features some of the same characters in Boyle's The Lonely Witness, and provides a first look at the backside of Brooklyn world and hardboiled voice of this fiendishly talented author. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.