Picks and Pans Review: Small Town
In a moody fictional paean to a post-9/11 New York City, Block intertwines the fates of several characters with that of a man so crazed by the death of his wife and kids at the World Trade Center that he becomes a serial killer. Dubbed the Carpenter by tabloids, he runs amok, calling his murders "human sacrifices." Each killing has unforeseeable consequences: Writer John Creighton is briefly accused of one of the slayings and becomes famous because of it; art gallery owner Susan Pomerance, who knows one of the victims, goes on a dangerous sex binge; bored and depressed ex-police commissioner Francis Buckram finds his career plans disrupted by his efforts to find the killer. Some surprises emerge as well, such as when Creighton and Pomerance wrestle with their own violent instincts.
Pomerance's sexual voraciousness isn't convincing, but the rest of the cast is a vivid assortment of urban realists confronting their vulnerabilities. Stark action and rich details of New York City neighborhoods enhance a gritty story set in times that are full of doubt as well as surprising moments of hope. (Morrow, $24.95)
BOTTOM LINE: Haunting little-town blues