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July 31, 2011 / C.T. Henry

REVIEW: Pariah by Dave Zeltserman

It takes a talented writer to have readers rooting for the bad guy.  In Pariah, Dave Zeltserman does just that.  In the second book of his out of prison trilogy about ex-cons just released from prison, Pariah delivers a hard-hitting, noir tale that compels you to keep turning the pages.  The first novel in the trilogy, Small Crimes, was a major hit and quickly became one of my favorite books, but unlike Small Crimes’ redeemable protagonist, Kyle Nevlin is simply a pariah.  He’s foul-mouthed, violent, self-indulgent, and amoral.  Why read a book about someone so loathsome?  To find out what happens next.

When Kyle is released from prison, he has three goals in mind: to re-establish his rep as one of the Southie’s most feared mobsters, to kidnap the son of a wealthy businessman for an eight million ransom, and most of all, to exact his revenge on Red Mahoney, the “rat” who set him up to take the fall in the armed robbery that landed him in prison.  Kyle first hooks up with his baby-brother, Danny, and learns that he’s moved out of the old neighborhood and lives with his domineering girlfriend.  Hoping that Danny will embrace his former mobs ties, Kyle includes him on a scheme to make a quick eight million.  But of course, things don’t happen according to plan.

Reading Dave Zeltserman’s prose is effortless and captivating.  There’s rarely a dull moment in the book.  Nevertheless, the last quarter of the book takes a dramatic shift away from the violence when Kyle receives a book contract to write a fictious version of the events that happened to him.  While this plot change is a bit disjointed, Zeltserman keeps us constantly entertained with Kyle’s mishaps, which are outright hilarious.

If you liked Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside of Me, you’ll enjoy reading Pariah.  It’s one of the most original thrillers I’ve read in a long time.

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