Bronx Requiem
John Clarkson
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Buy *Bronx Requiem* by John Clarksononline

Bronx Requiem
John Clarkson
Minotaur Books
400 pages
November 2016
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Clarkson returns with protagonist James Beck in another violent tale of inner-city mayhem, greed, and ambition. The finger of guilt points directly at Beck and the loyal men who support him: Demarco, Manny, and Ciro, all ex-cons (like Beck) residing in a renovated building in Brooklyn’s Red Hook area, all dedicated to staying off the grid to avoid the possibility of future incarceration (Among Thieves, And Justice for One). Beck’s character anchors this anti-hero series, a man exonerated after conviction for the murder of a cop, later pardoned and cleared of any taint of criminal activity.

Beck now dedicates himself to helping other ex-cons fashion viable lives outside the prison walls of a system that continuously fails them. Beck and his crew are devoted to their common goal--helping men returning to the world after years behind bars--assisted when necessary by a network of reliable friends with a variety of skills. It is an invisible community dedicated to others like them, fashioning low profiles and taking care of business in Beck’s innocuous remodeled building. The nightmare begins while Beck awaits his newly-paroled mentor, Packy Johnson, at the station, the convict released after a near-lifetime of incarceration. When Packy fails to show, Beck learns he has hitchhiked to the residence where he will stay with an ex-mother-in-law. He decides to wait until morning to meet with Packy. Unfortunately, Packy fails to keep that appointment: he is brutally murdered--on the eve of his release.

Outraged that his friend has died before enjoying even one night of freedom, Beck decides to find out exactly what happened to his friend. That brutal act, and a morass of conflicting clues around it, becomes the mission of the ex-cons, all following Beck’s directions. They begin by addressing the immediate plight of Packy’s daughter, Amelia, a girl who has never known her father. The girl has been forced into prostitution by a ruthless pimp trafficking in prostitution and drugs. Retracing Packy’s steps from the night before, Beck locates Amelia’s pimp and his thugs, learns that his friend has confronted the man, demanding he free his daughter. Now that this stranger/father is dead, Amelia suspects she is expendable as well, maybe even her pimp’s next victim. Beaten and terrified, she bides her time after Beck and his crew inject themselves into the drama.

Beck’s crew begins their investigation with Derrick Watson and his Bronx River House gang, the center of all criminal activity. Needing more background information to understand Packy’s senseless murder necessitates a trip to the prison that just released the ex-con, the crew’s interest spreading into two directions. Meanwhile, ambitious and well-connected Detective John Palmer and his about-to-retire partner, Ray Ippolito, make plans for a quick solve on the murder. Beck is conveniently chosen as the most likely suspect, perhaps taking revenge on the girl’s pimp. Beck and his men delve into lucrative secret connections in the Bronx underworld and the state penal system while Palmer manipulates his investigation, ensuring success by arranging evidence to suit his needs.

The streets of the Bronx come alive in Bronx Requiem, both sides on a collision course as the streets heat up, bullets flying, factions at cross purposes, the mayhem accelerating as the plot twists and turns. There are gang shootouts, backroom deals with powerful underworld figures, and one terrified teenage girl on the run as each side attempts to locate her. The confrontations are quick, brutal, and bloody, Beck on the losing end of a beating outside the prison where Packy saved him from despair. But Beck has an edge in every altercation: he will not be the loser. Facing daunting odds, the four men power through a mission they will not fail, even if it kills them.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2016

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