This is a case where the basic premise has been done to death. Two young men living a life of crime when one is caught and serves jail time. He comes back home and expects things to resume where they left off. The other has been scared straight, as it were, and isn't interested in going back. Such is the case here. Yet, the execution of the story is how it works for the reader.
The years have passed and Danny has tried to forget the past which is never far away. Once Danny, Evan and Patrick among others were part of a gang of young toughs who considered themselves invincible. With instincts honed by working the streets, they moved from score to score taking what they wanted and not worrying about the consequences. Danny usually worked with Evan as he did that fateful night.
That one night cost Danny in ways he won't talk about and cost Evan a long term sentence in Statesville maximum security. While Danny still hangs around Patrick, Danny has become what they referred to as a "civilian." He has changed his ways and isn't about to go back and risk losing it all including the love of his life, Karen. Then, Evan returns and is looking for pay back and gratitude for Evans not talking to the cops. Danny's house of cards perfect life begins to teeter and Evan plans to bring it all down.
In what is billed as a debut novel and certainly does not read like one, author Marcus Sakey skillfully weaves a complex tale. A tale that is on first glance, stereotypical in the idea of the con coming back home and looking to be rewarded. And yet through back story, flashbacks, etc. The novel quickly becomes much more. Evan is portrayed as evil initially and yet overtime is seen to have an element, not exactly of goodness, but of something more positive. Danny, a flawed hero, is carried forward not only by the love of a good woman but by memories of what he caused as well as the life his father led.
If has become clichéd to believe and live up to the standards that our parents raised us to. That is exactly what happens in this novel. Forces set into motion in childhood rippled forward through their lives and ended in a violent climax in a Chicago construction yard. The past is never really past and everything influences our actions each and every day.
The result is a complex read that touches on social issues while at the same time providing a heck of a good tale, at a fast pace with deep characters. This is a good stuff and well worth your time.
The Blade Itself: A Novel
St. Martin's Minotaur
Hardback (also available in eBook and paperback formats)
Kevin R. Tipple © 2007, 2012, 2021