Button Man

Minotaur: St. Martin's. Sept. 2018. 416p. ISBN 9781250179982. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250179999. F
Growing up poor on New York's Lower East Side, Morris Rabishevsky (later shortened to Raab) and his two brothers fend for themselves after their father's death. Morris drops out of school at 12 and goes to work in the garment industry, while Sol heads to accounting school. By the time Morris is in his 20s, he has his own company, where Sol also works. It's the 1930s and mobsters are taking over the unions and enforcing their will. Morris's childhood acquaintances now work for gangsters and his ne'er-do-well younger brother Harry associates with the likes of Dutch Schultz and Albert Anastasia. By resisting the mob, Morris suffers the burning of his factory and the murder of a close friend. Another childhood friend, now a lawyer, finally convinces him to join Thomas Dewey in fighting the corruption and intimidation. Gross's third stand-alone historical thriller (after The One Man and The Saboteur) continues the theme of those earlier works by pitting an ordinary person with core morality against seemingly overwhelming forces of evil.
VERDICT Neither thriller nor mystery, this is a big departure from Gross's past work and may strain the loyalty of his many fans. But historical fiction fans will be drawn in by the details of the author's own family history in the garment industry. [See Prepub Alert, 3/26/18.]

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