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The Stranglerby William Landay
"[W]hen a book like The Strangler...comes along and serves that typical thriller fare in a smart and surprising way, you sit up and take notice....Original? No. But Landay definitely tells that story better then others. His book has what you want: plenty of violence, suspense and family intrigue..." Anya Yurchyshyn, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
Boston, 1963. A city on edge. On street corners, newsboys hawk the shocking headline: KENNEDY IS DEAD. In the city's underworld, a mob war rages. But what terrifies Bostonians most is the mysterious killer who has already claimed a dozen victims, a murderer whose name is indelibly linked to their city: the Boston Strangler. This is the electrifying backdrop of William Landay's magnificent new novel, a story of one Irish-American family, a city under siege, and the long shadow cast by the most infamous killer of his day...
For the three Daley brothers, sons of a Boston cop, crime is the family business. They are simply on different sides of it. Joe is the eldest, a tough-talking cop whose gambling habits — fast women, slow horses — drag him down into the city's gangland. Michael is the middle son; a Harvard-educated lawyer working for an ambitious attorney general, he finds himself assigned to the embattled Strangler task force. And Ricky, the devil-may-care youngest son, floats above the fray as an expert burglar — until the Strangler strikes too close to home.
As Joe's mob debts close in around him...and Michael becomes snarled in a murder investigation gone very wrong...and Ricky is hunted by both sides of the law, the three brothers — and the women who love them — are forced to take sides. Now each must look deeper into a killer's murderous rage, into their family's own lethal secrets, and into the one death that has changed them forever. As William Landay's complex, compassionate, and terrifying novel builds to a climax, two mysteries will collide — and a shattering truth will be revealed.
"Set in Boston in 1963, Landay's engrossing crime novel is less about the titular strangler than the three Irish-American Daley brothers: Ricky, a thief; Michael, a lawyer; and Joe, a bent cop. A year earlier, the Daleys' father, also a cop, was fatally shot on the job, and the killer has never been caught. The father's partner on the force, Brendan Conroy, has insinuated himself into the family to the point that he's now sleeping with the brothers' mother, Margaret, and is a permanent fixture at Sunday dinner, much to the disgust of Michael and Ricky. Landay (Mission Flats) movingly explores the bonds of family and basic questions of honesty and loyalty. While the novel suggests another killer than the historical Boston Strangler, the emphasis remains on such themes as crime and punishment, love and honor, truth and justice." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Between June 1962 and January 1964, the killer who became known as the Boston Strangler murdered at least 11 women, some of whom he also raped. The city was gripped by fear. Locks, guard dogs and all manner of weapons flew out of stores. Women refused to go out at night or to open their doors. A massive police investigation was launched, thousands of suspects were grilled and a psychic was brought... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) in, but these efforts turned up no evidence and caused bitter criticism of the police. Much remained unclear about the crimes. The police thought 11 women probably had been killed by the same man, but the news media added other victims. Most of the early victims were older women — did the Strangler hate his mother? — but some of the later ones were young. The women apparently let the killer in, which caused speculation that he was a repairman or even a policeman. The resolution of the case was as ambiguous as the crimes had been. Albert DeSalvo, an inmate in the Bridgewater State Hospital, told his lawyer, the ambitious young F. Lee Bailey, that he was the Strangler. DeSalvo was at the time undergoing psychiatric tests after being arrested for unrelated rapes. Bailey negotiated a deal whereby DeSalvo told investigators what he knew about the murders — and he seemed to have knowledge of the crime scenes — but only after he was given immunity from prosecution. DeSalvo was thus never convicted of the Strangler killings but was sentenced to life in prison for the rapes. In 1973 another prisoner stabbed him to death. To this day, some students of the case think DeSalvo was not the Strangler, but it is a fact that, once he was behind bars, the Strangler-style killings stopped. Lawyer and novelist William Landay uses this grim history as background for his second novel, but he also tells a bigger story of crime and corruption. If I read him correctly, he's saying that, yes, someone was strangling these women, but at the same time crooked cops, vicious mobsters, greedy businessmen and compliant politicians were strangling a great American city. It's an ambitious novel that centers on the three Daley brothers: Joe, a troubled cop; Michael, a Boston city lawyer who's assigned to the Strangler case; and Ricky, a dapper jewel thief. Their father, also a Boston police officer, has been killed in the line of duty, and their widowed mother is being wooed by her late husband's fellow detective and best friend. In one of the novel's plot lines, the brothers suspect that the friend may have killed their father. By the time the story begins, DeSalvo is in custody, but many questions remain about the Strangler case. When a woman close to the Daley family becomes the victim of a Strangler-style murder, it raises the question of whether the real Strangler is still at large. Or was the woman, a reporter, killed because she had dug too deeply into corruption and mob influence in the city's vast urban renewal program? Landay does a good job of turning over the rock to reveal the dark side of a city that we often think of in terms of its educational and cultural glories. The mob is vividly portrayed, from the seldom-seen boss of bosses to a crazed thug called Vincent 'the Animal' Gargano, who, in one of the novel's strongest segments, forces Joe Daley, the cop, to go to work for the mob. Joe, who's not terribly bright, is a gambler who finds himself owing $20,000 (twice his annual salary) to mob-controlled loan sharks, and Gargano makes it clear that if he can't pay up, he'll either take orders from the mob or be killed. Joe sinks deeper and deeper into the quicksand of corruption until even he realizes he's doomed. As the story unfolds, the question becomes whether the brothers can find out who killed their father and the young woman before the mob kills some or all of them. At least one Strangler-style killer, who's very much at large, also figures in the story — in one harrowing scene, he sets out to rape the brothers' widowed mother. As this suggests, there's some ugly violence in the story. There also are interesting digressions on everything from lock-picking to migraine headaches, from the mysteries of religion to the difficulties of love. ('But love for Ricky was a behavior, a series of actions. The emotion itself was worthless, because it's internal and immaterial. Even at its intensest and most intoxicating ... it could only be enjoyed by the one who felt it, not by the partner who inspired it.') This is, finally, genre fiction, but of a high order. In the end, one of the brothers must perform some Rambo-style heroics to put things right, and a dying man must stay alive just long enough to gasp out a much-needed confession. Because Landay is writing about crime in working-class Boston, some reviewers have compared him to Dennis Lehane. That calls for clarification. 'The Strangler' is superior to Lehane's early Kenzie-Gennaro novels, but it does not equal the rich prose and intense characterization of his 'Mystic River.' Still, it's an impressive and satisfying performance, and Landay is a writer to watch." Reviewed by Patrick Anderson, whose e-mail address is mondaythrillers(at symbol)aol.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Complex....This character-driven novel...[unfolds] against the backdrop of the oppressive atmosphere of 1963 Boston. People are reeling from the assassination of JFK and the still-on-the-loose Boston Strangler." USA Today
"Landay has a marvelous ear for dialogue and for relationship complexities, smartly emphasizing the impact of crime instead of on the crimes in particular." Baltimore Sun
"Mr. Landay combines a fictional investigation of the Strangler's killings with a chronicle of three brothers....The result is a gripping, atmospheric saga in which the official version of many matters (both criminal and civil) bears little resemblance to the truth." Wall Street Journal
"Good may triumph, but not at all clearly, and the many twists are truly shocking in the hands of this masterly plotter." Library Journal
"[Landay's] stellar craftsmanship shines through; if anything, The Strangler surpasses [Mission Flats]....It is difficult to escape the conclusion that The Strangler may well be the crime novel of the year." BookReporter.com
"In between a slow start and a coda too cute, Landay shows a truly sizzling Boston." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
William Landay is the author of the highly acclaimed Mission Flats, which was awarded the John Creasey Memorial Dagger as the best debut crime novel of 2003. A graduate of Yale University and Boston College Law School, he was an assistant district attorney before turning to writing. He lives in Boston, where he is at work on his next novel of suspense.
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