cover image Fingerprints of Armless Mike

Fingerprints of Armless Mike

Thomas William Simpson. Warner Books, $29.99 (402pp) ISBN 978-0-446-51809-3

A strong narrative voice, a sure sense of storytelling and a bedeviling dash of surprise invigorate Simpson's (Full Moon Over America) tale of a man on the run. Mike Standish, a self-described ""dirty old Polack"" from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., narrates this novel belly-up to a bar in remote Devil's Cay in the Bahamas. After a few failed romances, we learn, Mike fell in love with and married Sarah Browne, a New Jersey blueblood of the purest stock. The couple's marriage became a sticking point when they were forced to move in with Iron Kate, Sarah's rigid, caste-obsessed mother, who developed an unholy distaste for Mike and what she saw as his gold-digging charm. Goaded by Kate's insinuations, Mike decided to establish his new family in a home of their own. To do so, he secretly hocked Kate's collection of antiques, fleeing the country when his fingerprints on the goods threatened to disclose his involvement. As Mike ruminates on the past, he reveals his yearning for his wife, whom he hopes will come searching for him, and reflects on the role his lust for sex and money played in his turn to crime. Stuck in a hurricane, plagued by loneliness and self-doubt, Mike tells a pungent tale that deftly caricatures how a man can be freewheeling, wily and noble all at the same time. Author tour. (Apr.)