cover image Brooklyn Crime Novel

Brooklyn Crime Novel

Jonathan Lethem. Ecco, $30 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-293882-4

The parts are better than the whole in Lethem’s textured if scattershot latest (after The Arrest), an episodic look at crime in a Brooklyn neighborhood from the 1930s through 2019. The first chapter, “Quarters, Part 1,” set in 1978, features two 14-year-old Boerum Hill white boys using a hacksaw to cut multiple quarters into pieces, creating “surrealist anti-money.” Their story line is only resolved hundreds of pages later, after diversions involving a panoply of characters, including one known as “the Screamer” and another called “the Black kid” or “C.” There are vivid vignettes, such as “Ice Cream Truck, Known Con-Artist,” wherein a child who’s just bought ice cream from a Mr. Softee truck witnesses a daylight sidewalk shooting in 1979; and “Guy Who Stuffs Flyers into His Bag and Says Keep Walking,” in which a 20-something man from Brooklyn tries to make it as a bookseller in 1991 Manhattan, where he’s surprised when a younger man approaches him on the street and doesn’t try to mug him. Near the halfway point, Lethem jokes he may have lost his audience along the convoluted paths he’s created; the narrator, whose identity is withheld, asks, “Anyone still reading...?” It’s a bit too meandering, but fans will be pleased to find Lethem still knows his way around a New York City street scene. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME. (Oct.)