Anthony Lee, Author . Morrow $24.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-009042-5

Tough guy Martin Quinn wants out of the crime business, but can't seem to extricate himself in this brooding, staccato debut novel. In present-day New York, a heroin deal goes horribly wrong, and Quinn is unjustly charged with the double murder of his best friend and an associate involved in the botched deal. Forced to choose between selling out his former colleagues or serving time for a crime he didn't commit, Quinn finds himself reflecting on his turbulent past. Fatherless at age nine, Quinn's role models are the Italian gangsters who rule his New York City neighborhood. After he gets into a street fight, his mother ships him to a private school uptown where he befriends Felix Pasko, son of the head of New York's Russian mafia. Around the same time, he falls madly in love with Penelope, a strong-willed young woman whose family also has underworld ties. As teenagers, Quinn and Pasko slip into organized crime, but Quinn's moral conscience eventually makes him flee at 18 and join the army. He doesn't return to New York until he is 25, on the eve of Penelope's marriage to Pasko. Lacking money or prospects, Quinn reunites with Pasko as his partner in crime and secretly begins a dangerous love affair with Penelope. All of this leads to the double murder charge and the impossible choice Quinn must face. Though Lee's storytelling is sometimes choppy, his laconic, hard-boiled prose takes the reader deftly into the mind of an imperfect man who desperately tries to reach beyond the world that has engulfed him since childhood. Believable, self-doubting characters, and Lee's richly detailed, rough-edged treatment of New York, his native city, make for a dark, riveting novel. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/05/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
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