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Small Town    by Lawrence Block order for
Small Town
by Lawrence Block
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

This is not one of Lawrence Block's various series featuring Matthew Scudder the alcoholic detective or Bernie Rhodenbarr the inept burglar (my personal favorite) ... or Evan Tanner ... or Chip Harrison. Rather it is a stand-alone book. Or should I say a stand-out book, which it truly is. The small town, to which the title refers, is New York City - which, if you think about it, is really a string of small towns that merge together to make up the whole of the city.

Francis K. (not X) Buckram is a former police commissioner in what he considers his city. Art gallery owner Susan Pomerance harbors an obsession with sex. Gay Jerry Pankow is afraid to go to work for fear he will fall over another dead body. John Blair Creighton is a novelist indicted for murder, which gives a blast to his career. And then there is the man they call the Carpenter who lost his daughter, son-in-law and son in the twin towers on 9/11. He has a mission. These are some of the interesting characters who people Small Town. One life touches another in strange and unusual ways. What a town!

Block shows he knows his city as he takes readers from apartment buildings to restaurants to local parks to bars to the Hudson River. The reader becomes a New Yorker walking the streets in his own hometown along with the characters. One can feel the energy emanating from the population - from the cabbie who drives like a Kamikaze pilot to the little guy who cleans bars in off hours. Block weaves a background for each character so the reader feels they not only know the person but their parents and siblings as well - characterization at its best. And the novel is full of Block's typical keen wit.

But best of all, Block builds his plot flawlessly so that tension mounts as pages turn. The climax had me holding my breath. Guess you've figured by now, I liked the book. Small Town is pure Block, well-written with a plot line to kill for (no pun intended.) The author has transcribed into print what I feel are his own sexual fantasies, which he attributes to one of his characters. And what fantasies they are. 'Fess up, we all have sexual fantasies, don't we? Please say yes. However, if you are a bit squeamish about sexual peccadilloes, skip those parts, but don't miss this latest Lawrence Block.

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