Violence is no stranger to Brooklyn's Troutman Street, a place where whores, junkies, businesses, cars, and dreams go to die. But here, in a junkyard on Troutman Street, three men search for redemption.
Stoney wakes up with a hangover every morning. He loves his family, but they're terrified of him. One more DWI and he'll do time that he can't afford. His partner Tommy would run their "business" right into the ground -- or make them a fortune; no way to tell which.
Tommy Roselli, a.ka. "Fat Tommy," a.ka. "Tommy Bagadonuts" knows the best restaurants in New York and how much to tip the maître d' in each one. He knows who to call if he really wants you sleeping with the fishes. If you met Tommy, you'd remember him. But he'd remember you, your phone number, your wife's name, and what his chances with her are.
Tuco has a gift, one that will come in handy for Stoney and Tommy when people start dying on Troutman Street. But as he learns to use it -- struggling to walk the line between family, friends, and the law -- he almost forgets the first rule of Troutman Street: Watch your back.
If nothing concentrates the mind like an imminent hanging, then second place may well be the looming presence of a couple of South American hit men, who in this self-assured debut have their eyes on the Troutman Street junkyard of Fat Tommy Rosselli, a.k.a. Tommy Bagadonuts. Fat Tommy rules his junkyard like a small-scale godfather, finessing the cops and looking out for his partner Stoney and young associate Tuco. He helps Tuco get a new place to live when Tuco's girlfriend throws him out, and he worries about Stoney's drinking (with good reason Stoney has been blacking out, and it's ruining his marriage). But when Fat Tommy is shot and critically injured by someone he knows, and South American hit men show up, the refrain of his cohorts becomes, "What would Tommy do?" From here on in, this novel about small-time crooks on the shady edge of the law turns into a weirdly compelling tale of character growth and redemption, of a sort. Green does an excellent job of setting up Troutman Street, which runs between Brooklyn and Queens, as not just a road but a self-contained world of its own. The sharply drawn characters and the clever nicknames will invite comparisons to Elmore Leonard, but there's little of Leonard's flash and cockiness here, only a gritty realism, an attention to detail, and a resolute avoidance of clich s that speaks of a writer with his own style and his own story to tell about how men smart enough to see the trap they're in can become smart enough to escape it.