I did not know that this was part of a series – much less one with 29 books prior to this. This is, though, the final Gregor Demarkian book, as the author died of cancer while writing it. The book was finished by her sons. While this can be read as a standalone, it did not work well in that regard for the reasons below. This may be due to the sons completing it, but the editor should shoulder part of this as well.
This is a slow, slow ride of a book. It opens with a nine part prologue, so all the major players can be introduced, instead of pushing them into the narrative, to be introduced more organically. I found this annoying. A 14 year old boy takes a bus to a prison to visit someone named “Russ” who I presumed was his father. There’s no indication as to why Russ is locked up. In fact, we don’t find out the actual reason until almost the 75% mark. I also found this annoying, as other characters would mention him and that he’s gone nutty into conspiracy theories, almost making it sound like he was locked up because he was mentally unbalanced. But what did he do, exactly?
There’s an old Armenian woman named Marta, who lives in a rent-controlled apartment, and who has arguments with the building’s super, Hernandez, because he wants her to move out of her three room apartment into a single room so a larger Hispanic/Latino family can move in. This doesn’t go over well with Marta, who is a racist, hating the Latinos, most of whom she’s convinced are there illegally.
There’s a bunch of nuns, doing their best to help the community, which is admirable, but there’s also a point where one of the nuns infodumps the history of American nuns via dialogue. They’ve seen seeing a black van from time to time, and worry it’s ICE, come to pick off the adults and children they have in the church/school.
There’s Tommy, the 14 year old, who seems to be smarter and more level headed than almost anyone else in this book.
There’s Meera, from Mumbai, who hates Americans and America, and wants to move back, continuing to add to the cash stockpile she has going right now.
There’s Clare, from Lithuania, who likewise hates America, but who also hates Indians like Meera.
There’s a Latino whose name I forget who doesn’t like black people.
Everyone seems to be a giant, raging racist here.
Marta, who famously does not go out at night, suddenly does, stomping her way to the Adler Properties office. The building in which she lives is owned by Cary Adler. He owns a number of buildings, it seems. He also has various loans that he has to pay on.
While Tommy and the priest are walking, a black van is racing down the street. It loses control, slamming sideways into a light pole. The back doors pop open, and what looks like a large trash bag falls out. It’s a body – more specifically, an older woman, still alive, but in bad shape. I knew who it was immediately.
Then we get a whole bunch of stuff about illegal immigrants and a racist cop. Gregor and his wife Bennis are fostering a 7 year old Latino boy, so there’s discussion of paperwork, etc.
It turns out that Adler is under investigation by the feds for coyote operations – that is, bringing people illegally over the border and getting them to Philly so they can work in his various buildings, if possible. Clare and Meera are both money people, and they move money around to make things seem a bit rosier than they really are at Adler Properties. But the feds are having a tough time, because although they can see that movement of money, they can’t quite pin it down.
ICE shows up at the church to arrest some 70 year old janitor who had a DUI and served his time. Gregor wanders around as a consultant for the police, who don’t say it, but don’t want him there. He doesn’t add much as a consultant.
It takes a long time to get to the point where things start folding in on Adler. I won’t spoil what’s happening with the coyote operation except to say it isn’t quite as bad or as usual for what we consider coyotes to be.
Eventually, the case is wrapped up, with multiple pieces coming together at the same time.
The writing is fine, some of the characters were nicely fleshed out, but this book couldn’t seem to decide just what it wanted to be. Discussion of the currently broken immigration system and abuses by ICE? Social commentary on people living in cramped quarters, barely eking out a living? White collar crime and embezzlement and/or money laundering? An investigation into an assault and then later, a murder? Race relations and how most everyone is racist to their core? Who knows?
It’s very, very slow. If you can’t get through multiple POVs and narrative that seems to add nothing whatsoever to the store, this is not for you. If you’re a reader of the series, you’ll likely find it satisfying enough a finale.
Two stars out of five. Sorry, folks, this was just not for me.
Thanks to Minotaur and NetGalley for the review copy.