Friday, March 18, 2011

The Wolves of Fairmount Park - Dennis Tafoya

After spending several weeks in sunny Los Angeles with Elvis Cole, we have moved into darker Philadelphia with an ensemble cast including a cop (Brendan), his heroin addict brother (Orlando), the brother’s girlfriend, and a host of members of organized drug trade.

I have been to Philadelphia once, but I didn’t have a car, so I was pretty much forced to stay around City Hall. This book mostly takes place in Roxborough, which is on the Northwest side of town (at least according to google maps and Wikipedia). Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, this is a pretty nice part of town. However, there is definitely a seedy element in this novel.

The book starts out pretty quickly. We are introduced to the ensemble cast in rapid succession, and the book alternatively tells the story through the eyes of several of the characters. You have to stay vigilant about the perspective, or things can get confusing pretty quickly. I caught myself once or twice getting tired (I mostly read at night after everyone has gone to bed) and having to re-read a few paragraphs because I got the point of view mixed up.

In all, it is a pretty good crime story, which doesn’t have a surprise ending, but more of an unexpected villain. Dennis Tafoya’s depiction of the inner monologue and sensory input of a heroin addict (Orlando) are chilling, and make you feel a little sorry for the addict’s state of life. The amount of violence surrounding the drug trade in the novel is well done - not too over the top. Personally, I prefer getting to know one character really well, but Tafoya’s choice of an ensemble cast was refreshing given what I’ve been reading lately.

Strangely enough, and completely unintentionally, the next book I’m reading is Expiration date by Duane Swiercczynski is set in Philadelphia as well.

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