In 1950s Boston, the best way to survive is keep your head down and your mouth shut. But Cal and Dante prefer to do the right thing, not the sensible one.
When a body is discovered tarred, feathered and shot, it is dismissed as a gangland killing. But Cal O'Brien's cousin, detective Owen Lackey, recognises the murder as the typical retribution for IRA informers.
Owen knows that no one in the tight-knit Boston Irish community will talk. He turns to Cal and Dante for help, sending them into the city's shadowy underbelly. But there's a war on its way - and they're walking straight into the middle of it.
It's June 1954, and an oppressive heat entombs Boston in O'Malley and Purdy's well-written if bleak sequel to 2015's Serpents in the Cold. Their broken antiheroes, Dante Cooper and Cal O'Brien, have each recently suffered a personal loss, and those losses are keenly felt throughout the novel. Heroin addict Dante has a fingertip hold on sobriety, while ex-cop Cal struggles to keep his security business afloat. Both answer the call, though, when Det. Owen Mackey, Cal's policeman cousin, asks for their help in his pursuit of IRA sympathizers who are running guns and murdering suspected informers. The Irish club scene of the time has a role in the story, as does Dante's skill at the piano, but the unforgiving temperatures, easy violence, and grim state of the South Boston neighborhoods overwhelm any joy that the bright lights and dance floors might impart. More than one bloody killing will catch readers by surprise.