My last recommendations (for now) are two books by Frank Lentricchia, The Accidental Pallbearer and The Dog Killer of Utica. Both feature Eliot Conte, a large, very strong, opera loving Melville scholar with impulse control problems. His father is local political fixer while his best friend Antonio, who is more like a brother and favored by his father, is Uttica’s Chief of Police. Around this triangle revolve the two books. We first meet Eliot and Antonio as they sit in a Troy, N.Y. movie theater waiting for a live simulcast of the Metropolitan Opera when Eliot gets news that his two daughters he hasn’t seen in 20 years have been killed thus setting off a series of events that reverberate back to a decades old unsolved mob hit instituted by Eliot’s father. There’s a lot thrown at us in The Accidental Pallbearer (which seems to be par for the course for a first book in series) so it gets a bit confusing at times but stick with it because all is made much clearer in The Dog Killer of Utica.
Publisher Weekly says of Dog killers “A fast paced if somewhat mild follow-up…” Me? I call it more cohesive. All the niggling little things are answered, the story moves smoother, it picks up right where Pallbearer ends, and best of all, the dialogue is just as sharp and quick. That’s what won me over to this series in the first place, the dialogue. Local vernacular is just as important in setting a sense of place as the setting itself. Elmore Leonard was the best at this, with George Pelecanos a close second. If Mr. Lentricchia can keep it up in future installments he too could enter the Pantheon.