I don’t quite know what to make of Lawrence Block’s Small Town.
On the one hand, Block is trying to catch the spirit of the City in the months following 9/11. The story follows a cast of characters: a cop, a criminal, and a few in between, whose lives converge due to a series of murders that shake a still shaken city. Lawrence Block is one of New York City’s great poet laureates, and I appreciate what he is trying to do with the story, even if all the pieces don’t fully come together (more on this later).
On the other hand, this book is less a post-9/11 New York story and more of an exploration of human sexuality, specifically but not limited to BDSM.
And…that just makes it…weird? Because it’s not billed as such and even though I knew there would be some of that going in, I didn’t know there would be that much. It’s like Block is basically writing two books at once.
I haven’t read enough erotic lit to judge how Block writes that stuff in terms of quality. I think he handles it fine, though there were some touchy issues with consent and female characterization. I’m not a prude; frankly, I wish more mainstream books brushed with erotica. It just added a weird vibe.
The crime story alone would be interesting if not for the villain. We get his perspective but I’m not sure we ever really get him, aside from him being a tortured soul. The logic of what he was doing was ridiculous and it made me feel like the whole exercise in reading was a waste of time.
But this is still Lawrence Block. The characters are interesting, the Manhattan setting is real, the man knows how to spin a yarn. I just wish he had taken the crime idea and told a different story.