cover image A COLD CASE


Philip Gourevitch, . . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $22 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-374-12513-4

In 1970, a New York criminal named Frankie Koehler killed two men in cold blood, then disappeared. Over the decades, he was all but given up for dead. Nothing haunts a cop like loose ends, however, and 30 years later lawman and fugitive at long last crossed paths. Basing this book on his article of the same title, New Yorker staff writer and NBCC and L.A. Times award-winning author Gourevitch revisits this case. Gourevitch's first book (We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda) dealt with the Rwandan genocide and that region's judicial vacuum; the scope here is smaller but, as Gourevitch shows, murder is a seemingly inescapable aspect of the human condition. In clean prose, the author follows former NYPD officer Andy Rosenzweig (now an investigator with the Manhattan D.A.'s office), who, like Koehler, was raised on the streets of postwar New York, a city that has all but disappeared except in the hands of capable writers. And Gourevitch lets his near-perfect pitch dialogue do much of the work. "I wouldn't kill anybody for money under any conditions.... That's a scumbag does that," Koehler says. The only jarring moments in this otherwise elegant and restrained narrative are the sudden intrusions of the pronoun "I." This residue of New Yorker style reminds readers that the material is not entirely fresh. But that is a minor complaint, for as Rosenzweig says, quoting a fellow officer, "Who speaks for the dead? Nobody. As a rule, nobody speaks for the dead, unless we do." Gourevitch has secured a place next to Rosenzweig in that lonely and all-important choir. 12 b&w photos. (July 11)

Forecast:Thanks to the reputation Gourevitch established with his first book, this will be widely reviewed. During July and August, he'll do promotion in New York City; after Labor Day, he will embark on a five-city tour. This will sell handsomely.