Free

Todd Komarnicki, Author
Todd Komarnicki, Author Doubleday Books $20 (273p) ISBN 978-0-385-46849-7
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In this boldly styled first novel, Komarnicki follows a 30-year-old homeless man on a noir odyssey of death and survival through the streets of New Orleans and Hong Kong. Adrift in the Big Easy since he was a teenager, Jefferson Alexander Freeman discovers similar tattoos on the corpses of two recently murdered Chinese men, who appear to have been out-of-towners involved with drugs. ``Free,'' whose recent plunge through a church window left his head filled with shards of stained glass, has unwelcome dreams that move him in two alarming directions: some take him back to a shooting in the childhood he's desperate to repress; others illuminate his present life on the streets. Hiding out, drinking and scavenging have made Free nearly paranoid and susceptible to the suggestion that he might be the killer himself. Accompanying him on his self-propelled investigation is Agatha Li, a city cop with a hidden agenda and a weakness for men with shaved heads, swollen feet and open scars. Arresting images of violence and a persuasive initial narrative rush dissipate in a slow-moving sequence in Hong Kong and in the opaque resolution. Still, despite occasional lapses into coyness, Komarnicki suffuses his setting with a memorable neon-lit bleakness and, in the angst-ridden Free, creates a memorable hero. (July)
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