Bag Men

John Flood, Author, Mark Costello, Author
John Flood, Author, Mark Costello, Author W. W. Norton & Company $24 (240p) ISBN 978-0-393-03998-6
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Paperback - 251 pages - 978-0-385-32000-9
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Spare writing and a roster of flawed, struggling characters highlight this terse, engrossing debut, which earns high marks for its original setting and plot. It's 1965 in Boston, just before the first English-language mass in America is to be celebrated by Cardinal Cushing. George Sedgewick, the priest who is delivering communion wafers personally blessed by the pope, is murdered at Logan Airport, and the hosts are stolen. In charge of the case is Ray Dunn, the ADA who fixes things for DA Johnny Cahill and cleans up after Johnny's playboy son, Eddie. Meanwhile, narcotics detective Manny Manning, searching for the supplier of a killer strain of heroin, hears about the imminent street presence of a new drug that's about to be declared illegal in the U.S., a drug called LSD. The two searches converge when the past of the dead priest points to electroshock therapy and secret experiments conducted at the naval base at Portsmouth. It's a bleak tale told with no frills--and no nobility either. In the world that Flood--a Boston federal prosecutor writing under a pseudonym--has created, no one is untainted: Ray Dunn is haunted by the arrest of his father in a police corruption scandal and is compromised by his clean-up activities for the DA; Manny Manning was an informant gathering evidence against his fellow cops for the feds; and even the Monsignor who knows Sedgewick lies. In Flood's 1965 Boston, there are no easy answers and no clear victors--except perhaps the pseudonymous Flood himself, a natural storyteller, who, with this accomplished first novel, has claimed his own piece of turf in the city of George Higgins and Robert Parker. (Jan.)
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