A stylish killer makes the mistake of befriending a god
Though he doesn’t know mink from sable, Sidney Holden is the most important employee at Aladdin Furs. He is a bumper, a well-dressed killer who collects the debts that cannot be paid, and Aladdin would be nothing without him. After all, fur is murder. As Cuban refugees flood the United States, the New York criminal class is rocked by the appearance of a Santería sect that hails a young girl as the newest incarnation of Changó, their bloodthirsty thunder god. But after a routine hit, Holden finds the girl cowering under the kitchen table—a divine witness to a double murder. Unable to kill her, he takes her with him, sparking an all-out turf war so vicious that Holden will be happy to have any god on his side.
Charyn's 20th book ( War Cries over Avenue C, etc.) is sparer and easier to read than some of his works, but has all of their best elements: offbeat, interesting characters, seedy urban settings and distinctive prose. It is a crime story whose protagonist and romantic hero is a hitman or "bumper''he is called ``Paradise Man'' because he sends people into the next worldwho dresses like a dandy and yearns for his lost love. Paradise Man, aka The Frog, aka Holden, works for the Aladdin Fur Company in Manhattan, making sure bills are paid and guarding the company's patterns. Holden gets into trouble when he does a freelance job for La Familia, a group of powerful Cuban criminals at war with the Bandidosstet, more recent emigres from Castro's jails. He kills two con artists ripping off La Familia but, disobeying orders to leave no witnesses, does not harm the little girl he finds with them, taking her instead to be cared for by a friend. He then becomes the object of a series of murder attempts throughout New York City. Furriers, restaurateurs, lawyers and the Queens D.A. are, here, no better than Holden, who at least has a code of honor and a gentle nature. This is a convoluted tale in both narrative and moral terms, and a fascinating one.