In City of Margins, the lives of several lost souls intersect in Southern Brooklyn in the early 1990s. There’s Donnie Parascandolo, a disgraced ex-cop with blood on his hands; Ava Bifulco, a widow whose daily work grind is her whole life; Nick, Ava’s son, a grubby high school teacher who dreams of a shortcut to success; Mikey Baldini, a college dropout who’s returned to the old neighborhood, purposeless and drifting; Donna Rotante, Donnie’s ex-wife, still reeling from the suicide of their teenage son; Mikey’s mother, Rosemarie, also a widow, who hopes Mikey won’t fall into the trap of strong arm work; and Antonina Divino, a high school girl with designs on breaking free from Brooklyn. Uniting them are the dead: Mikey’s old man, killed over a gambling debt, and Donnie and Donna’s poor son, Gabe.
These characters cross paths in unexpected ways, guided by coincidence and the pull of blood. There are new things to be found in the rubble of their lives, too. The promise of something different beyond the barriers that have been set out for them. This is a story of revenge and retribution, of facing down the ghosts of the past, of untold desires, of yearning and forgiveness and synchronicity, of the great distance of lives lived in dangerous proximity to each other. City of Margins is a Technicolor noir melodrama pieced together in broken glass.
This was a book I needed, no pussy footing around, but strong harsh and gritty. Set away from the bright lights and glamour of New York City, Boyle did exactly what he said in his title as he pushed us out to the cities margins. His characters were surviving, just, knocked back by life circumstances of their own choosing and the circumstances chosen by others.
Donnie, the corrupt cop was a scarred man, even if he himself didn’t realise. The suicide of his son, Gabe, had far reaching consequences, ones that Boyle made him fail to recognise. His involvement with the subervise underground made him cocky, to take risks that you knew would eventually lead to his downfall.
He was the cog in the wheel, the one the other characters whirled around, as their lives and their actions became more and more intertwined.
There was Mikey, directionless, his father dead by presumed suicide, who lived with his mother, a woman who had never recovered who inherited her husband’s debt to Big Time Tommy. Antonina unwittingly pulled into the net, desperate for escape and Donnie’s ex wife Donna still reeled from Gabe’s suicide.
Boyle set the scene, gave us brilliant insights into the characters, their motives, their thoughts, he did this slowly, as coincidence played its part, as they met unaware of the hidden connections. It felt as if Boyle was winding up a clockwork toy just waiting for the right moment to let it go, for the craziness and the consequences to unravel and for you, the reader, to wonder who would be left at the end.
His narrative was harsh, the undertones dark and oppressive, the chinks of light few and far between. Boyle did it so well that you didn’t mind, that you understood that it was essential to the novel, to portray the darkness that engulfed those at the margins, those that could see no way out, that somehow resigned themselves to the life they were in.
As the connections between the characters became more apparent to us and themselves, Boyle ramped up the tension, the pace became more frenetic, and individuals surprised us with their actions, actions that would change their lives forever. You delighted in some, felt dismayed at others and I was most pleased to see Boyle include an epilogue to tie up the loose ends, to stop me wondering where they all ended up.
The City Of Margins was a novel I admired from start to finish, the human consequences of crime and its after effects brilliantly examined and presented. A must read for all those who like a crime novel with a bit of a difference.
I would like to thank No Exit Press for a copy of City Of Margins to red and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
William Boyle is from Brooklyn, New York. His debut novel, Gravesend, was published as #1,000 in the Rivages/Noir collection in France, shortlisted for the Prix Polar SNCF, nominated for the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière and shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger. Boyle is also the author of the Hammett Prizenominated The Lonely Witness (No Exit Press), a book of short series, Death Don’t Have No Mercy and another novel, Tout est Brisè, released in France by Gallmeister. His new novel, City of Margins, will be published by No Exit Press in 2020. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi.