This is the third William Boyle book I’ve tried. I still can’t get past the first 50 pages of Gravesend, as I found the characters to be uninteresting. The Lonely Witness was enjoyable enough but kind of a mess. Boyle, like George Pelecanos, writes character-driven crime tales that focus on their distinct urban neighborhoods. I always feel like I should enjoy both of their books more than I do. They always feel like I’m dropping in the middle episode of a well-produced television show that I’m unfamiliar with.
I was getting the same sense for the first 1/3rd of City of Margins. I like the fringe Brooklyn neighborhood, I like how Boyle builds it, the characters were interesting enough. But the execution…I don’t know. It just doesn’t come together for me.
But this time, it did and I’ll be damned if I can explain how. Maybe Boyle has a better grasp of what he is trying to say (this is his fourth book in his Brooklyn series). Maybe I was more interested in the character dynamics and how they related to one another. Maybe I’m just bored. But halfway through, I found myself hooked in the story. By the end, I thought it may be in the running for my best of list.
I think the tragic angles Boyle tried to work in his other ones really hit home here. Perhaps its because he was able to tease out complicated family dynamics with simple prose or maybe because the stakes felt real to me in a way that they didn’t in others. Either way, this one stuck. I don’t know that Boyle will suddenly become one of my favorite authors but now I’m excited to go back and read more of his stuff.