The two-time Pulitzer winner and author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys returns with a novel set in early-1960s New York City, where furniture salesman Ray Carney is trying to be an upstanding family man. But with a second baby on the way and money tight, Ray dabbles with his cousin Freddie in some criminal activity—and a heist gone wrong puts them both in a sticky situation.
Whitehead adds another genre to an ever-diversifying portfolio with his first crime novel, and it’s a corker ... Whitehead delivers a portrait of Harlem in the early ’60s, culminating with the Harlem Riot of 1964, that is brushed with lovingly etched detail and features a wonderful panoply of characters who spring to full-bodied life, blending joy, humor, and tragedy. A triumph on every level.
Throughout, readers will be captivated by a Dickensian array of colorful, idiosyncratic characters, from itchy-fingered gangsters to working-class women with a low threshold for male folly. What’s even more impressive is Whitehead’s densely layered, intricately woven rendering of New York City in the Kennedy era, a time filled with both the bright promise of greater economic opportunity and looming despair due to the growing heroin plague ... As one of Whitehead’s characters might say of their creator, When you’re hot, you’re hot.
... a sizzling heist novel ... It’s a superlative story, but the most impressive achievement is Whitehead’s loving depiction of a Harlem 60 years gone—'that rustling, keening thing of people and concrete'—which lands as detailed and vivid as Joyce’s Dublin. Don’t be surprised if this one wins Whitehead another major award.