Colson Whitehead writing a crime novel is exactly what it sounds so depending on how you feel about him as a writer will impact how you feel about this book.
I realize that’s a pedantic thing to say because that’s true of almost every writer. But I emphasize it here because I’ve usually never been able to be in sync with Whitehead’s style. I couldn’t finish Underground Railroad and while I liked parts of Zone One and the concept as a whole, he kept losing me with tangents.
Still, I do enjoy a good crime novel and this one, while not perfect, did not disappoint. Yes, his tangents can be frustrating but once I got into the rhythm of his style, I found myself enjoying this immensely. I liked how the crimes, while big for Carney and his group, were small stakes in comparison to what usually passes for a heist/caper tale. And yet, I was deeply invested in Carney’s life, his motivations, the other characters. There are three vignettes and each respective one felt unique, original and still tied into the larger narrative of Carney and his neighborhood.
Also, Whitehead does a great job of evoking Harlem as it was in the late-50s into the early-60s, beginning the tale with the neighborhood on the tail end of its era as a thriving entertainment center and ending as the flashpoint for an uprising against anti-Black police brutality.
I read that Whitehead is writing a sequel to this set in the 1970s. I cannot wait to read it.