Saturday, November 28, 2009

Book: Pariah, by Dave Zeltserman (2009)

There’s dark, and then there’s dark.

Pariah, the latest from Dave Zeltserman – the sick puppy of crime fiction, says the Washington Post (sort of) – opens with Kyle Nevin’s release from prison. The South Boston gangster did his full bid, which is more than can be said for his boss, an FBI rat now in the wind. Kyle plans on tracking him down once he pulls off a kidnapping to give him operating capital.

Things don’t go well.

You know Zeltserman is up to no good with the page one note from Kyle to his editor. More are scattered through the text. How Kyle ended up writing the manuscript you’re reading is too twisted and too bleakly funny to spoil here.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that genuinely disturbed me, but Pariah takes that crown. Kyle Nevin is a stone-cold predatory sociopath who never dresses up his ruthlessness. I loathed the guy. I also couldn’t stop reading about him. At least Joe Denton, the protagonist of last year’s Zeltserman scorcher Small Crimes, tried to justify his self-serving actions. Kyle can’t be bothered, which makes him either terrifyingly compelling or compellingly terrifying. After all, rationalization is what separates us from the animals. Except for dolphins. Those flippered punks rationalize constantly. And what does it get them?