Like the best noir practitioners, Murphy uses the mystery as scaffolding to assemble a world of fallen dreams and doom-bitten characters ... Murphy’s hard-boiled rendering of the city is nothing short of exquisite. It’s a landscape of reeking garbage, of salty rain sweeping off the ocean, of Midtown towers that look 'ghostly like a mountain range,' ... For anyone who wants a portrait of this New York, few recent books have conjured it so vividly. For those who demand a straightforward mystery without any humor, romance and ambience, well, forget it, Jake, it’s literature.
...one of many delightfully meta passages in Dwyer Murphy’s debut crime/literary novel, An Honest Living. Murphy has earned this self-reflexivity. Editor in chief of the website CrimeReads, he knows not just where the bodies are buried but how readers want them to be discovered ... An Honest Living is filled with noir tropes: mistaken identities; forged manuscripts; fenced goods; coffee at diners and bodegas and train stations; a city whose 'small, dying shops' and 'ghostly vistas' are about to be rezoned and spun into staggering wealth, if only you can jam your snout into the trough ... As Murphy well knows, the crime novel is anything but efficient. I can rarely remember the ending of a good detective novel, but I can almost always remember its texture, the feeling it evoked and the atmosphere it placed me within ... An Honest Living resolves some of its plot mysteries but not all of them. It introduces us to various worlds-within-worlds—the antiquarian book trade; big city law firms — but refuses to neatly tie them all together. The novel concludes, no spoiler here, with this sentence: 'I closed my eyes and in the wind was a trace of salt.' This is the way a good noir ends: not with a plot but with a vibe.
...the book explores city consciousness as much as it does its characters’ motivations. The New York of the era, before it was entirely lost to developers and hyper-gentrification, is in fact a character in this novel, one that figures crucially ... Murphy’s postmodern but highly readable story manages to bring readers into a specific time and place—the Manhattan and Brooklyn of the mid-2000s—in such a way as to give life to the city as much as the people, and to tell us something about both the thrill of living there, and the existential (?) quandaries that necessarily ensnare these urbanites at the same time ... [an] excellent mystery novel ... There are funny, clever, and genuinely important references to notable works of literature and film throughout, a feature that supports the plot and adds a bit of clever novelty. It would be easy to bungle this, to come off as pretentious, as self-consciously 'literary.' But Murphy manages it all so deftly that the material always seems to please, like a puzzle ... if you’re interested in a smart mystery, in a page-turner of a book that’s 'meta' in a good way, you won’t do wrong to pick up Dwyer Murphy’s An Honest Living.
The wandering plot is really just an excuse for Murphy to muse on New York and books...With atmosphere like that, who cares about plot? ... for those who covet 'reading in a bar with lousy lighting and good air conditioning,' this one is a pure pleasure
An impressive debut noir from the CrimeReads website’s editor in chief...In mid-2000s Brooklyn, a disillusioned lawyer gets by with any odd jobs thrown his way, including a quick $10,000 payday involving one Anna Reddick, who asks him to dig up some dirt on her much older husband Newton, a rare book dealer who she claims sold off valuable titles from the family collection, to fund their divorce...Easy enough, until the real Anna Reddick, a celebrated novelist, shows up on the lawyer’s doorstep looking for the man who slandered her husband...Who set him up, and where is Newton now?...To answer those questions, the unnamed protagonist is drawn into a world of antiquarian booksellers, among other quintessential New York characters, as well as the world of the elusive, brilliant woman who’s spending more and more time at his apartment...Murphy’s writing is smart, ruminative, and referential...A lovingly rendered snapshot of an already-bygone city, with details reeking of authenticity, down to the last barstool.
Reading the book is almost like having the author sitting next to you in a bar and after some opening conversation telling you about his work. It is quite a story ... Sprinkled throughout are mentions of recognized works of literature, film and a few cameo appearances of well-known New Yorkers. Sometimes the references meld into the plot, and other times they just appear to add to the New York noir of the novel. Regardless of the reasons for their inclusion, they are clever and smoothly written.
Though it's probably too soon to feel nostalgia for 2005, when Dwyer Murphy's An Honest Living begins, this territory-marking debut is seductively steeped in motifs reminiscent of the golden age of noir. Fans of the genre will likely be nodding appreciatively from the introduction of a mysterious woman out to get her husband, which launches this story, to the concluding shot of a vintage car ... Efficiency isn't what Murphy is going for: the novel has a languid pace, with stops for digressions. But readers' patience will be reliably rewarded not just by the noirish touches but also by the impeccable sentences, which often capture ever-changing New York.
Hired by wealthy Anna Reddick to prove that her husband, whom she’s about to divorce, has been selling her rare books, the unnamed narrator infiltrates the Poquelin Society, 'a scholarly society dedicated to the art, science and preservation of the book, whatever that meant,' in order to entrap him into a 'controlled buy'...This seemingly easy job will lead the narrator to a second one that involves a probable suicide wrapped in a convoluted web of impersonation and misdirection and book auctions, and then leads him to a small-time crook who's suddenly hit it big with waterfront development in Brooklyn...The investigation also puts him in the path of an eccentric female novelist who seems to have stepped out of the pages of Hemingway or Chandler with an edgy charm and casual cruelty that only make her more fascinating...The self-conscious tone and the nostalgia—characters go see old movies and talk about old books—render the plot almost secondary to the setting...In the end, not that much happens, but the characters live and love and fight and die against a backdrop of New York City, its seasons and its landmarks, its underbelly and its flaws...The lawyer/detective ends his quest a little more jaded, a little sadder than he began...More style than substance, but fans of noir fiction will feel right at home.
The New York attorney who narrates Murphy’s uneven debut—who is unnamed but hints he has a name similar to the author’s—gave up a career with a prestigious law firm to make an honest living in a solo practice doing odd jobs, contract work, and document reviews, but his earnings have been slim of late...Then a wealthy woman calling herself Anna Rennick approaches him, claiming that her much older estranged husband, a former antiquarian book dealer, is stealing rare books from her library...The narrator can’t resist her $10,000 fee as well as a potential bonus if he can catch her husband offering any of her books for sale. Something about the case bothers him, but he manages 'to put it out of mind' and he winds it up with little effort...Murphy, the editor-in-chief of CrimeReads, writes with authority about the New York book world and literary references abound, from Edith Wharton to Cormac McCarthy, but the novel’s digressive first half drags and the plot never picks up much speed...This is destined to amuse a niche audience at best.