Cornelius Lehane, Author . Poisoned Pen $24.95 (269p) ISBN 978-1-59058-016-5

The characters who inhabit Oscar's bar on New York's Upper West Side are serious drinkers with more than their share of quirks, shames, secrets and strengths. In this strong debut novel, Lehane exhibits a sensitive empathy for those who find solace in drink and drugs and the ambience at Oscar's, where one can be solitary but not alone. Mostly older, mostly men, Oscar's patrons are captivated by Angelina, an alluring, available young woman, who begins to frequent their bar. Even bartender Brian McNulty, a participant/observer—presiding, absorbing, but never probing—is drawn into her orbit. But when the beautiful, troubled Angelina is murdered and Brian's customers and friends become suspects, he reluctantly abandons his bartender's code: "I enter my friend's house deaf; I leave dumb." Instead, prodded by the arrival of Angelina's sister, Janet, from their hometown of Springfield, Mass., Brian begins to learn more than he wants about Angelina's past. Brian is a wonderfully complex character, and Lehane reveals him to the reader with exquisite skill. Brian takes shape, developing substance and form, just as his stumbling investigation does. Set in 1983 but timeless in its depiction of men and women struggling to cope with whatever demons beset them, Lehane's assured debut merits a warm welcome from readers who prize originality and insight. (Nov.)

Forecast: Regional author appearances, targeted advertising and good word of mouth—not to mention a last name with resonance in the thriller field—could send this one into extra printings.

Reviewed on: 11/04/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 233 pages - 978-1-59058-020-2
Open Ebook - 269 pages - 978-1-61595-243-4
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