An Honest Living

Viking. Jul. 2022. 288p. ISBN 9780593489246. $26. M
DEBUTAn 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.
VERDICT Murphy’s writing is smart, ruminative, and referential. His narrator knows he’s in a story that mirrors the plot of the film Chinatown, and though the mystery itself is light on twists, it’s all worth it for this lovingly rendered snapshot of an already-bygone city, with details reeking of authenticity, down to the last barstool.
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