Something’s amiss on Schraft Street in the small blue-collar town of Bradford near Boston. After an unexpected inheritance, novelist Jim Herlihy finds himself juggling the tenants, finances and mishaps of a three-decker apartment building, the Hardcore Gym and a local watering hole on the street while trying to knock out a sequel to his book. While Jim fends off young Amy, a local stripper/hooker with a “crush” on him, he learns that Hoary Harry, a former high school football teammate turned marginal gangster and bookmaker, was found bludgeoned to death in the woods — and Jim is the suspect.
Jim’s life is filled with creative characters, including the three Boston cops who live on one floor of his building and three strippers/hookers on the second. The loud and boisterous Fabulous Fat Foursome (aka “bouncing burlies”) and ultra-buff body builder Crazy Connie frequent his gym, where Jim is smitten with personal trainer Dale O’Dell who—alas–loves a handsome model.
Colorful, well-described characters with catchy nicknames abound in this novel, but if it is meant to be a murder mystery, the plot is tepid at best. The set-up to the murder is much too slow, taking up more than a third of the book. And since Hoary Harry was a threatening guy, his murder seems to be no great loss. Conversely, Jim is developed as a kind and considerate guy from the start, so he is never believable as the suspect.
The author is at his best when writing snappy dialogue and adding detail to the gym scenes, where ripped characters regularly grunt through ultra-heavy weights and pummel the punching bag. When the strippers weigh in, they banter in slang references to sex acts and body parts.
In short, Connelly’s novel suffers from a lack of tension and a limply developed, sluggish plot. Despite clever characterizations and writing with flair, it’s likely to appeal only as a thin beach read.
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