I was really impressed with large parts of first time writer Brian Selfon’s The Nightworkers. His characterization was of the highest quality. I found myself intrigued with most of the individual plot lines. His descriptions of Bushwick, a neighborhood I’m only somewhat familiar with, made it come to life. I always enjoy a good New York City crime tale set outside of Manhattan, if done right (thinking in this moment of William Boyle and Maggie Estep). And his use of dialogue, no doubt stemming from his days as an ADA in New York City, seemed authentic. Parts of the story reminded me of a Richard Price novel.
Ultimately however, this is a book I wish I liked more than I actually did. And that’s largely because of the non-linear narrative. Selfon sets his whole story up around a crime that happens to a “family” of criminals. But as he tries to build the world around it, he makes it impossible to get invested in most of the threads from the spine of the tale. He’s essentially telling three or four stories at once, whereas each of these characters are rich enough to demand their own novel. At times, he uses obfuscation to keep the reader off balance but it mostly left me confused.
So the result is a compelling crime novel with interesting pieces that aren’t put together in a way I found effective for a quality reading experience. Nevertheless, Selfon is a talent and I’ll be on the lookout for his next novel. I just hope he finds a way to streamline the story.