Saints of New York
The death of a young heroin dealer causes no great concern for NYPD Detective Frank Parrish – Danny Lange is just another casualty of the drug war.
But when Danny’s teenage sister winds up dead, questions are raised that have no clear answers. Parrish, already under investigation by Internal Affairs for repeatedly challenging his superiors, is committed todaily interviews with a Police Department counsellor.
As the homicides continue – and a disturbing pattern emerges – Frank tries desperately to make some sense of the deaths, while battling with his own demons.
Trying to live up to the reputation of his father, John – not only a legendary NYPD detective, but also one of the original ‘Saints of New York’ – the men charged with the responsibility of ridding New York of the final vestiges of Mafia control in the 1980s – Parrish struggles to come to terms with the broken pieces of his own life.
But, as the murders escalate, he must discover the truth behind them before there are further innocent victims.
- Saints of New York begins with a bloodbath. Literally. A wired junkie has wounded his girlfriend with a razor and is threatening to cut both their throats as they sit in the tub and her life drains down the plughole. The cop from Homicide Unit Two, Nineteenth Precinct South Brooklyn, trying to talk him out of this mess is Frank Parrish. He fails. It’s a tough start to a tough police procedural in a genre where the damaged policeman is a symptom of a sick society.
Frank is recently separated, he is estranged from his kids and is drinking way, way too much. As if that wasn’t enough, his last partner on the beat was killed on a botched assignment that has Frank on half pay and probation. Although this set up may sound familiar, Saints of New York is far from the usual. This is a powerful crime novel which will leave you gasping and uplifted. It is not by any means all downhill. R.J. Ellory is a British writer who has established a name for himself, like fellow Brit Lee Child, writing moody American crime.
His first, Candlemoth was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association thriller award in 2003 for best thriller while this year, A Simple Act of Violence won the Crime Novel of the Year Award at the annual Harrogate crime writing festival. It’s not hard to work out why. Ellory can write.
His prose is spare, telegraphic and lyrical. The dialogue is sharp and convincing, especially in those scenes between Parrish and the counselor with whom he is required to meet every day. ‘You’re late.’ ‘I am.’ ‘I think you should try to be on time.’ ‘I did try.’ ‘Could you try harder?’ These confessional scenes, which Parrish initially resists, echo Tony Soprano’s encounters with Dr Malfi or the riveting scenes between psychotherapist and patient in the more recent HBO series In Treatment. They also serve a valuable narrative function, filling us in on Frank’s back story as he is forced to confront the motives behind the self-destructiveness which dogs him.
In the process, Saints of New York becomes more than the story of Frank’s inspired detective work as he pieces together bits and pieces of evidence to reveal the connections between a hitherto unrelated series of murders, and much more of a story about the family.
Frank’s father was a cop, a revered and much decorated one, but Frank ‘thinks’ he knows the truth about the lie and it is destroying him. As Saints of New York unfolds; as Frank quietly and insistently pursues a hunch that what looks like the drug-related murder of a sixteen year old is anything but; as we watch Frank negotiate his relationship with his new, much younger partner on the job, and stumble in his attempts to reach out to his daughter, Frank Parrish emerges as a flawed hero.
Despite all appearances to the contrary, Frank is a good man. Take the moment in the elevator to his bare apartment when he manages to distract a crying child to the relief of her worn mother. Frank is on his way to an unlovely room and a fifth of Bushmills, to a night of insomnia broken by the occasional nightmare, but he can still make a child smile. It’s a sign. The climax is masterful, a chaotic collision of the planned and the unforeseen which illustrates just how well Ellory is in charge of his characters and his plot.
Saints of New York just couldn’t be better. Sydney Morning Herald The freshly-announced winner of the Theakstons Award for A Simple Act of Violence, RJ Ellory keeps the momentum (and the quality) going with this his latest offering. Dark and intense, Saints of New York opens, quite literally, with a blood bath, and from there you are in the master’s hands and he’s not letting go until that last satisfying page is turned. My reaction to the main character and how I am drawn to his journey is always a measure as to how successful the author has been, and few work this as well as RJ Ellory. Frank Parrish is your archetypal New York detective; committed and flawed in equal measures. But Ellory injects a freshness to this by the simple expedient of drawing his character so well. Parrish is a conflicted man; haunted by the belief his father is not who the world thinks he is, he feels compelled to be the best policeman he can be. If that means he circumvents what he sees as a deeply flawed system, then so be it. Catching the bad guy is all.
As usual in an Ellory novel the research is on the button and perfectly pitched to help propel the story along. In this case the research is being used to highlight the plight of female teenage runaways and the nefarious ends that the corrupt have for them. Saints of New York is a novel of corruption and salvation, of an unshakable determination needed to uncover the truth, and of one man’s pursuit for meaning hidden among the phantoms of his psyche. Crimesquad THERE is no doubt that New York police detective Frank Parrish is in a world of trouble. There is also no doubt that he was once a very good detective, but years of cynicism and low self-esteem have taken their toll. He has a closer bond to his nightly bottle of Irish whiskey than he does to his divorced wife and estranged children. His last work partner was killed; he is on reduced pay and his driver’s licence has been revoked. And he has been ordered to undertake daily counselling sessions. So why does the Police Department keep him on?
The answer to this, and the answer to so much else in Frank’s downward spiralling life, is his father. John Parrish was one of the most decorated policemen in the city’s history, revered by just about everyone and one of the original Saints of New York. Only Frank knows a very different and rich and very dark, much blacker story; one which he can never divulge. When his work leads him to suspect there is an unknown serial killer stalking his neighbourhood, preying on teen girls, the pressure of tracking him down brings all his crises to boiling point.
When R.J. Ellory started writing his grim but imaginative crime novels, he ran into a large conceptual obstacle: He is a Brit, writing about the sleazy underbelly of Crimetown USA and the publishing powers-that-be thought he was geographically and culturally well out of his depth. But this is not the case; the vision of his city is perfectly executed. In the same way that a map is not a picture of the world, Ellory’s city is constructed in a way we all recognise without the need for a cinematic description. Like a cup of diner coffee, rich and very dark.
- TRUCULENT New York PD detective Frank Parrish is the son of a legendary cop, one of the original “Saints of New York”, the crew who cleaned the city of the final vestiges of Mafia control in the 1980s.
As he investigates a series of possibly drug-related murders, Frank, with the help of a police counsellor, also tries to piece together his own life. And come to terms with his failed relationship with his father. Written in simple, unaffected prose, this gritty, edgy novel is un-putdownable, an example of what critic Jacques Barzun calls “stories of anxiety”, which cater for the contemporary wish to feel vaguely disturbed. R.J. Ellory plays with the procedural story’s conventions, and keeps the problem of guilt and complicity at the front of the reader’s thinking.
- Detective Frank Parrish, like nearly all New York cops in fiction, is an ‘aggressive alcoholic with twenty years on the career clock’ and a direct descendant of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe.
He goes unafraid down mean streets (and all the rest) but previous lapses in police propriety means that he will soon be out on his ear unless he agrees to see a counsellor every day. Parrish’s sessions with the therapist expose his life story: his heroic police officer father, now dead; his partner, also dead – killed on duty; his wife and family, alive but estranged. At the same time undergoing what proves to be a traumatic analysis Parrish is on the trail of a killer.
It’s a suspenseful and interesting tale, beautifully written in an all-American style.
It was a surprise to learn that the author is actually British; but so, of course, was Raymond Chandler.
The Literary Review
- THERE’S a darkly lyrical cadence to his writing that engages your emotions and compels you to care about the characters he creates in his utterly compulsive thrillers. This one grabs your heart, squeezes your gut and fills you with dread at what might befall troubled New York detective Frank Parrish. You certainly can’t put it down, forget it, or escape the intensity of the ride Ellory takes you on. Not only is Frank burdened by the daily horrors of his job, he is carrying the weight of his father’s sins. In the world of cops everyone remembers John Parrish as a highly decorated officer, one of those who broke the Mafia’s hold on the city, one of the Saints of New York. But, Frank knows something they don’t. His father was corrupt and was probably killed by the mob as a result, and it’s eating away at Frank that in the eyes of others he fails to measure up to his father’s legend. Frank’s already in trouble, warned about stepping over the line to get convictions and now he’s pushed to the limits of self-control as he uncovers a link that connects the seemingly unrelated murders of several teenage girls. Frank is thinking the unthinkable – that the murderer may work inside the city’s child protection services, which gives him a unique opportunity to choose his victims, girls who have all been adopted.
Only Parrish can bring them justice – if he puts his life on the line.
Alex Gordon, Peterborough Evening Telegraph
- RJ Ellory’s novels seem to be getting bigger and better with each passing year. The British author who makes his living writing books set in the United States first came to prominence when Richard & Judy picked his dark slice of Southern gothic, A Quiet Belief In Angels, for their list. But R J Ellory isn’t one to be satisfied with resting on his laurels; his novels since then have been darker, more imaginative, and painted across a bigger canvas than almost any other British crime writer’s, and Saints of New York is no exception. New York homicide detective Frank Parrish is burned out from too many cases. He’s attending daily counselling sessions on the orders of his superiors. He drinks too much, his eating habits are terrible, and his partners have an unfortunate knack for getting themselves killed. When he’s called to the scene of a junkie’s murder he’s not greatly concerned: another casualty of the drugs war. But when the victim’s younger sister ends up murdered too, Parrish is jolted out of his deepening apathy. While investigating the murder, he stumbles on the fact that several young girls, all in the state social care system, have disappeared, later ending up dead. At the same time Parrish has to see his counsellor every morning. In these sessions he tries to come to terms with the legacy of his father, a revered former NYPD captain, head of a group of policemen called the ‘Saints of New York’, who prove to be anything but. Parrish is a wonderful creation, hard and bruised but with an undercurrent of tenderness and empathy. His relations with his daughter, his ex-wife and his girlfriend are fraught with the horrors he brings back from the office. What Ellory does so well is get inside the head of a homicide detective, and he’s more interested in what the job does to a man’s psyche than he is in forensic details or procedural points. Unlike most serial killer novels, this is about the damage police work does to the policeman, the same theme David Fincher explored so excellently in his film, Zodiac.
That said, the story is gripping, Ellory’s flair for language and sense of rhythm propelling the reader along in a furious rush. As the murders continue, Parrish falls into a deep well of despair, only the investigation itself helping him keep his head above water. Saints of New York is a story about redemption, both personal and political, a story about knowing when you’re on the wrong side of the angels but trying to find a way to be righteous in a world that rewards anything but honesty. This is a marvellous, nail-biting roller-coaster ride of a novel, perhaps the best British-written police procedural for several years. Saints of New York is also much more than that: a meditation on guilt, suffering, and the sins of the fathers, from one of our brightest and best talents.
Stav Sherez, Catholic Herald
- This is a book about a man. It’s laid out like a crime novel with the detectives hunting a serial killer, but mostly it’s just about that one man. It’s about that man and his quest for redemption. Frank Parrish has just returned to work in the homicide division of New York’s finest following an incident in which his partner died. He’s a man living in the shadow of his past, most recently of the incident in which his partner was killed, but primarily in the shadow of his father.
Frank’s father is held up to all as the shining light of the New York Police Department. He is lauded as a hero for the way in which he fought injustice back in his day. Frank knows better. He knows his father was corrupt, a crooked cop who took bribes and sold information to the Mafia. A lot of this book is about how Frank deals with how his father, now dead, is hero-worshipped in the force, when he knows it’s all a lie. The relationships Frank manages to sustain – with his therapist, his ex-wife, his daughter and with alcohol are all defined by his need come to terms with what his father was, to stop trying to live up to the man that his father should have been, but wasn’t. Frank Parrish could have been a cliche – the washed-up, alcoholic homicide detective, but Ellory writes so well that he gets away with it. Frank Parrish is a character that draws you in to his chaotic world and makes you want to believe in him. Plot-wise the book is an interesting one. Frank thinks he’s uncovered the work of a serial killer, when he spots a link between a couple of apparently unrelated cases. Someone is killing young girls in the city, and the deeper Frank delves the more bodies he uncovers. If he’s right then this has been going on for years. Trouble is – no-one else can see the connections. No-one has enough trust left in Frank, enough faith to believe his instincts. And if no-one will believe him, how can he stop the killer? Ellory is shaping up to be an exceptionally fine writer. He seems to get better and better with each book, and he continues to come up with great characters, characters you can invest in. He writes a good plot too, keeping the tension up right to the end. There’s really not a whole lot more you can ask of a writer. Great stuff. Eurocrime A big blockbuster of a novel running to almost 500 pages, I found difficult to put down. Ellory’s protagonist, NYPD detective Frank Parrish is so wonderfully drawn, and totally believeable that I regret we will not meet him again.
However when I suggested this idea to Ellory in Auckland last week he said no, he would be sticking to his past practice of creating new characters for each new novel. I wish he would reconsider that because I could see Parrish becoming a major figure in crime fiction along the lines of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch or Ian Rankins’s John Rebus. The Courier Crime fiction has its fair share of maverick cops [invariably men] with battered private lives and tortured souls. Bitter, aggressive, alcoholic, unwilling to play by the rules, acrimoniously divorced and estranged from his children, NYPD Detective Frank Parrish has all the hallmarks stereotypical associated with these fictional cops. But Frank is no parodic genre character.
Instead, in the hands of R.J. Ellory, these traits, which the reader has seen a hundred times before, are transformed into something more. For Frank is a wonderfully realised character, whose depths, although not automatically discernible, are gradually brought out over the span of this brilliant novel. This is a man, who in one tiny, beautifully humanising moment, waits with the body of a dead girl so that she won’t be alone before the coroner arrives.
He is a character who the reader empathises with – and has sympathy for – despite his glaring inadequacies. And through the departmental counselling sessions Frank is ordered to attend, the reader is able to get under his skin [and he under theirs]. For, it is revealed, his father was one of the legendary ‘Saints of New York’, who broke the Mafia’s hold over the city in the 1980s. Except that Frank knows it was all a lie – John Parrish was corrupt to the core. And this knowledge of his father’s sins has festered inside Frank over the years, torturing him and in turn destroying everything that he has ever held dear. But for all of his deficiencies, or possibly because of them, Frank is exactly the type of detective needed to police the New York of this novel. A city of darkness and corruption and violence, where you can almost feel the crunch of hypodermic needles under your feet, and the smell of vomit and excrement, fear and hopelessness seem to permeate off the page. When a heroin addict, Danny Lange, is found shot dead in a dirty alleyway, Frank doesn’t blink. Just another dead junkie. But when Danny’s teenage sister Rebecca is found strangled and abused in Danny’s apartment, with her hair cut and her nails painted, Frank can’t leave the case alone. Soon he discovers a string of other pretty teenage girls murdered in similar circumstances, and his investigation leads him into a seedy underworld of drug addicts, broken homes, pornography and snuff movies. Somewhere a serial killer is lurking, and Frank will break every rule if it means saving the next innocent victim before the killer can strike again.
Rarely do books manage to make me feel truly emotionally involved, but Saints of New York really drew me in and wouldn’t let me go until its final, claustrophobic page. It’s a dark and depressing world that Ellory builds up, but this is nevertheless a compelling read – something you cannot put down. This is gritty and soul-destroying and heartbreaking all at the same time, but with just enough light flecked into it to make you believe that hope is not lost. I can’t really do justice to how brilliant I thought this book was, how taut and tense and well characterised. Sufficeth to say though, Ellory has turned out yet another great novel and is rapidly becoming one of my favourite crime fiction authors. More than highly recommended, this is a must-read.
Crime And Publishing
- The corruption in the New York City police department never seems to lose its luster as plot fodder. In the hands of R. J. Ellory, that old trope shines like a diamond. Frank Parrish is a detective, son of a legendary father, one of the original “Saints of New York” revered for clearing out the Mafia. Parrish’s struggle is to live up to his father’s name but stay true to himself. The result seems to be a never-ending face-off with his superiors and an Internal Affairs Investigation.
Then a routine investigation of the death of a heroin dealer leads Parrish to a vicious killer preying on the innocent. Parrish’s search for a murderer takes him right to the edges of his own life where legend and truth meet and diverge. Ellory writes film-ready prose and you can really see this one as the pages turn. Globe and Mail Detective Frank Parrish’s father belonged to a legendary cop squad that took down organised crime in the 80s. That’s a tough act to follow for – in his words – an “alcoholic loser with dangerously low self-esteem and a taste for cheap women and expensive whiskey.” But Frank has more than family baggage on his mind. He’s fixated on solving homicides involving young girls, no matter what the cost. It could be so cliched – an irreverent, harddrinking gumshoe with a broken marriage, a hooker on the side and a tough case to solve. But Ellory crafts this premise into a truly exceptional drama that must herald the dawn of a Frank Parrish series. The Daily Record DON’T pick up this book, RJ Ellory seems to be saying in its opening chapter, if you want your crime fiction safe and unthreatening. Certainly this is uncompromising fare, blood-soaked from its first paragraph. A hallucinating heroin addict is sitting in a bath with his badly wounded girlfriend, threatening to cut both their throats. The cop faced with this grim scenario is Frank Parrish, a policeman whose psychological damage makes most of his peers appear well adjusted. Can Frank talk a homicidal junkie out of his murderous mindset? It almost goes without saying that he cannot. It’s quickly apparent that Ellory has every intention of putting his beleaguered hero through the mill and if Frank and readers are taken to very dark places indeed the final effect of this punishing odyssey is actually exhilarating. For anyone who favours a touch of grit in their fiction Ellory is the man. After the death of the young addict Danny Lange, Frank returns to NYPD duties largely unfazed but then Danny’s younger sister also dies. Things begin to get very complicated for Frank, who is under investigation by internal affairs and living in the shadow of his nigh-legendary detective father who carries a more impressive reputation than his son. Frank’s father was one of the original “Saints of New York”, the men who redeemed the city from Mafia control in the Eighties.
This legacy apart Frank has his hands full with an escalating series of murders and perhaps most painful for him the daily meetings he is obliged to take with a psychotherapist. If this last element has echoes of Tony Soprano’s relationship with his therapist there’s little here Ellory doesn’t forge anew, however familiar the material. Saints Of New York is a tour de force and deserves considerable success. Ellory has sometimes shown a neediness for acclaim that should be slaked by all the applause this novel will receive.
The Daily Express
- Birmingham-born RJ Ellory writes urban crime like an American. His immersive knowledge and fascination with US law and disorder shine through his terse prose, and his crime scenes capture the raw tragedies of the disenfranchised. NYPD detective Frank Parrish is under investigation and undergoing counseling, while trying to find out who killed Rebecca, the sister of a dead, small-time heroin dealer. Parrish’s personal problems partly stem from trying to live up to the saintly memory of his cop father, but right now he needs to crack a messy case with a climbing murder rate. Ellory breaks scenes into sharp cinematic vignettes. His complex procedurals feel influenced by The Wire and the hard-boiled cop thrillers of the 1970s. The accumulation of detail is accompanied by a powerful sense of location and well-paced action sequences. In this siren-filled world there are no easy answers. The result is vivid storytelling with a dark heart and an angry conscience. The Financial Times NYPD detective Frank Parrish is a divorced, alcoholic, Catholic, burnt-out second-generation cop breaking in a new partner (the last one died) while hunting a serial killer. This may sound familiar but Ellory is too skilled a writer to let his protagonist become a cliche. From the moment Parrish tries desperately and unsuccessfully to talk down a murder-suicide, we see his city through his eyes. Ordered to attend therapy sessions, he tells his psychiatrist the truth about his much-decorated but thoroughly corrupt father, then reopens old cases looking for a link only he believes exists. It’s the best police procedural I’ve read all year.
The West Australian
- The NYPD does not need fiction to add to its mythological status as one of the world’s most storied police departments. It has it all: from gang wars to 9/11 and corruption scandals to fighting the Mob. On the one hand this makes New York highly fertile ground for crime fiction. “There are a million stories in the naked city,” says Matt Scudder, Lawrence Block’s New York cop-turned-PI, in Eight Million Ways to Die, one of the finest novels in an exceptional series.
But equally it must surely make it somewhat intimidating for writers. “Can you really do all this justice?” I imagine the empty page asking a writer embarking on an NYPD project. And so I couldn’t help but admire RJ Ellory’s courage in taking on not only the NYPD in his latest novel, Saints of New York, but the idea of the NYPD. He takes on its legend in all its glory: both triumphant and grubby. Saints of New York tells the tale of one lost and conflicted officer, Frank Parrish – a man who is at the lowest ebb of a troubled and controversial career, following the death of his partner in an incident in which he was heavily involved, and, in some circles, implicated in the blame. Parrish is the son of one of New York’s most celebrated detectives, an officer credited with unusual and extraordinary success in fighting the mafia as part of a dedicated unit that became known as the Saints of New York. And so his entire career has been viewed through the distorting prism of having to live up to the family name. But more than that Parrish lives with the knowledge – that he believes is unique to him – that his heroic father was actually a corrupt and morally bankrupt man living in the pocket of the Mob. Saints of New York is essentially the psychological tale of a man close to losing everything – his career, his family, his mind – as he tries to reconcile his own fading world with the lustre of his father’s glorious, but phony, status. The books starts in the most dramatic fashion, with Parrish desperately trying to talk a former contact down from an alcohol-fuelled murder-suicide – a bid that ends in failure. But it exposes the core of Parrish: courage and a determination to do the right thing, allied with a sense that failure or misunderstanding of his motives by others is somehow inevitable. Parrish is then given a new, young partner and lands a case of a vulnerable young woman who has been brutally murdered and her body casually disposed of. He quickly sees a pattern emerging that ties his case to other murders, but with his credibility at rock bottom finds it difficult to persuade his partner and superiors to follow his logic. This forces Parrish – who is convinced that he can save lives by proving his theory and nailing the murder – into a lone investigation in which he takes a series of ever more desperate and dangerous decisions.
The investigation is run in parallel with Parrish’s enforced counselling following the death of his previous partner, and through it we learn the story of his father, Parrish’s only family breakdown and his seeming inability to do the right thing by his wife and children – while he is obsessive in doing the right thing for crime victims. His investigation becomes as much a quest for redemption as it does for justice (even if Parrish himself cannot quite recongise this). Parrish’s obsessive and addictive personality – he’s an alcoholic – is dangerous territory for Ellory as he takes himself to the precipice of cop cliché. Less gifted writers, without Ellory’s command of narrative and characterisation, would have toppled off the top and killed the story on the rocks below.
But Ellory, as he’s shown with A Simple Act of Violence and A Quiet Belief in Angels, is a bold and confident novellist and he tackles the ruined life of Frank Parrish with sensitivity but (largely) without sentimentality and delivers a moving and naked portrait of a deeply flawed but heroic man. On top that he gives readers a pulsating and tense mystery. It’s bloody good. Another cracking read from Ellory, one of the UK’s very best crime writers. Nobody who likes crime, mystery and thrillers is going to be disappointed to get this one for Christmas. Put it on the lists.
- IN RJ Ellory’s Saints of New York, Frank Parrish is an NYPD detective who becomes obsessed with the murders of teenage girls. Parrish is initially a conventional character, a hard-drinking loner who subverts the justice system, but it’s hard not to share his obsession, particularly as the young women are being killed for the purpose of making snuff movies. Parrish is also haunted by his father’s reputation as one of the eponymous saints, a legendary cop who played a major part in breaking the Mafia’s stranglehold on organised crime in New York, although Frank is convinced that his father was a Mafia pawn. A pleasingly methodical and realistic police procedural, Saints of New York is equally impressive as a psychological study of a man on the edge of the abyss, and Ellory invests his gripping plot and strong characterisations with an existential angst that at times makes for harrowing reading. The Irish Times It almost goes without saying that Ellory has every intention of putting his beleagured hero through the wringer. And if readers are taken to very dark places indeed, the final effect of this punishing odyssey is exhilarating – for the reader who favours a touch of grit in their fiction. The Good Book Guide Saints of New York is vintage crime fiction from a writer at his peak, who revels in plot, has a finely-tuend ear for the music of the language, and plays from a score penned in the deepest recesses of the soul. Irish Examiner Saints of New York is the 8th book from Birmingham-born crime titan R.J. Ellory.
The tale opens with Frank Parrish, alcoholic NYPD detective, trying and failing to talk a junkie out of a murder/suicide. From then on, trouble mounts for the beleaguered Parrish, as heroin dealer Danny Lange and his sister are each found murdered. Danny’s death is hardly a surprise, but the murder of his innocent, unassuming sister raises difficult questions for Parrish and his colleagues; these questions become more urgent as the death toll begins to rise. Parrish ticks all the regulation boxes for the character of a maverick cop; heavy drinking, under investigation by the brass, struggling with a lack of self-worth, family life ruined. It is a testament to Ellory’s skill that he is able to create a character with such resounding vitality. Ellory strips away the decades of cliché, writing with such psychological intuitiveness that Parrish appears to be unique.
As he hits the bars, jousts with his police-appointed psychologist and flouts regulations, Parrish allows us to rediscover the very essence of what makes maverick cops so fascinating. He is the beaten down hero of last resort; if he doesn’t see the case through to the end, no-one will. Ellory steers clear of idle dualities; Parrish commits good deeds, bad deeds, and a broad spectrum of deeds in between. He is kind to local children, but interferes in the lives of his own. He takes cases from other cops in the name of justice, but ignores procedure to get them closed. Much of the depth of Parrish’s character is explored through his daily sessions with a psychotherapist. These scenes are incisive; examining Parrish’s relationship with his father (legendary NYPD cop, known to be corrupt only by Frank) in depth, but without resorting to the tedium of Freudian analysis or other such frameworks. In his improvement through therapy and a degree of introspection, Parrish edges closer to the redemption which lies at the heart of the book. Indeed, in a few short chapters, Frank’s shrink opens up his character more than Dr Melfi managed to with Tony Soprano across eight years.
As much as Saints of New York is a character piece and a story of redemption, it is also a work of historical fiction. This is absolute catnip for Mafia fans, with the history of the New York Mafia examined in depth, from the details of the Lufthansa heist of 1978, to the mob’s social and political influence within New York society. Ellory, an English writer writing about America, was rejected endlessly by publishers on the grounds of his national handicap. In Saints of New York, he trounces American authors on their own turf; this is a work of sheer, audacious brilliance. Saints of New York has everything a crime novel needs, and more. There is a searing analysis of the human condition, a faithful and fascinating retelling of Mafia folklore, a heartfelt examination of a father-and-son relationship across death’s great divide, and also, of course, a murder investigation.
That investigation is as procedurally faithful as the very best of its ilk, drawing out Frank’s skill and tenacity, and culminating in a finale of tremendous, knuckle-whitening force. To read this solely as a mystery though, would be hopelessly missing the point. Ellory fuses human drama, social commentary, history and philosophy to create something which transcends genre. What’s more, if you listen carefully while reading, you can almost hear the sound of countless publishing houses kicking themselves. You’re Booked – Harrogate International Crime Festivals e-zine Has to be included in the ‘best of the best’ list! Superbly written, believable characters and a driving plot. Look out for any books by this author. The American We expect detective stories to be dark and gritty, but this goes to darker places than most. A powerful and convincing New York crime novel. The Glasgow Herald A gratifyingly sleazy slice of New York. Beautifully detailed, the novel is a character study of a man who lives life trembling on the edge of the abyss.
Sunday Business Post
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