Picks and Pans Review: Trust

updated 02/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

by George V. Higgins

Earl Beale has been buying into trouble his entire life. In his college days, he shaved points on a basketball court. The weekly fix eventually cost him a stretch in the federal pen at Leavenworth. Now Jimmy Battaglia, a gangster with clean hands and a short temper, needs a Mercedes stolen and driven somewhere to be crushed, no questions asked.

Beale is given the job. Older but no wiser than he was in the years before he went behind bars, he has another idea. As usual, it's a bad one.

" 'I'm not gonna crush the damned car.'

" 'You're not,' she said.

" 'I'm not,' he said. 'I have seen it. This is a prime Mercedes two-seater, worth about five or six K. One of those roadsters, robin's-egg blue, and the seats've hardly been sat on. I'm gonna drive it up to Donald's, have him put it on the lot, and some rich———-'ll buy it."

No one writes about New England losers better than Higgins, and when it comes to losers, Earl Beale is in a league of his own. Beale is Higgins's most cynical creation since Eddie Coyle ran guns (The Friends of Eddie Coyle) and Jerry Kennedy got back Cadillac Teddy's driver's license (Kennedy for the Defense).

Higgins, as always, writes with a precise touch, his turbocharged plot alternating between the comic and the criminal, with each shady character running one step ahead of the collectors and two steps in front of a fatal bullet or a waiting jail sentence. It is a fictional world without winners, populated only by people whose best hope is to break even.

Trust has all the expected Higgins ingredients—a rummy trying to take off a not very patient mob boss; a score of mascara-dripping women all looking for a man willing to stay more than one night; ex-cons who've learned nothing from their mistakes; car thieves, bookies, loan sharks, the mainstays of the underground economy. Together, it makes for a fascinating mix and a pure pleasure to read. (Holt, $18.95)

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