Bad Neighbors

Isidore Haiblum, Author St. Martin's Press $17.95 (278p) ISBN 978-0-312-04263-9
In streetwise private detective James Shaw, Haiblum ( Murder in Yiddish ) has created a multifaceted sleuth who defies genre stereotyping. Here Shaw has been hired by a tenants' union to discover who is trying to force the elderly and improverished residents out of their rent-controlled building. Shaw is Jewish; he has a soft heart, a social conscience and a passion for classical music. He is also shrewd, unflappable and more than a match for the pugnacious thugs continually on his trail. In the course of his tedious and labyrinthine search for the owners of the building and those responsible for harassing tenants, he calls on the aid of perhaps his greatest asset--his uncle Max. A former detective with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Lower East Side, Max leads Shaw to a trio of not-quite-doddering Jewish gangsters who front an organization called Continental Equity. Shaw's confrontation with the three resembles Sam Spade meeting the Marx Brothers, at which point the mystery quickly becomes an ambivalent and unsettling mix of black comedy and vaudeville. A nonstop lineup of prostitutes, bums, assorted hoodlums and lackadaisical cops keeps New York's seamier side displayed. The book's excruciatingly slow pace, though, proves to be a heavy handicap. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
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