This is only the second book by Ed Lacy, which won an Edgar. The Men from the Boys fell a bit short of my expectations. You can read the other review if you want a plot summary, but I want to talk about my confusion at the resolution to the mystery, or lack thereof.
Most mysteries explain the solution pretty clearly so that even if you missed something along the way, you usually “get it” at the end. In this one, it’s like the main character, Marty Bond, figures it out, but forgets to explain it all to the reader. Here’s the way I see it: Bochio wants to kill Cocky Anderson, and needs to construct an alibi for himself, since he will be named the most likely suspect. He figures that if he can kill Anderson and hide him in a freezer for a while, he can take off for Miami and hole up in a hotel with some lawyers to create an iron-clad alibi, then get someone to take Anderson’s body out of the freezer and dump it, and it will look like Anderson was only just killed. Here’s where Willie Lande, the butcher, comes into it. Bochio turns out to be somehow related to Lande. Bond makes a call to a friend in Immigration which confirms this. But we’re really only told that when Lande immigrated to the US, he was sponsored by a Herman Bochstein, “a relative in Jersey City.” Bochio must be a member of the Bochstein family, but we’re only told that his name used to be Boch and he added the “io” after being adopted by an Italian family, and that both Bochio and Lande are Dutch.
Lande calls for a police officer as Bon’d stepson Lawrence is walking by, says he’s been robbed of $50,000, but almost immediately changes his story and says he imagined the whole thing. But Lawrence won’t let the story go. Where did Lande, a butcher who makes about $5,000 a year, get ten times that much all at once? That’s also not explained, but apparently that was his paycheck for shutting down his butcher business for a month so he could hide Anderson’s body in the freezer and then dump it. Maybe Lande moved the body himself, or maybe one of Bochio’s thugs in NYC helped, but I’m surprised Lande’s driver Lou wasn’t involved. Bond seems convinced that Lou has nothing to do with the mystery and tells him everything he knows or suspects right from the beginning.
Finally, a crooked cop named Hilly Smith is involved, and Bond connects Smith with the murder all because he looks like Dick Tracy and talks like a country boy. Maybe Smith helped Lande move the body when it was time for it to be discovered. Smith is the one who nearly kills Bond at the end. He must be the one who also kills the two kids who temporarily robe Lande of his $50,000. I can’t imagine why anyone would think to rob a butcher shop that’s been closed for business for a month, and shouldn’t have much if any money in the shop. Did they work for Anderson, or a rival syndicate? They’re both shot and killed, supposedly trying to rob a gas station in Newark, NJ later that night. The gas station owner or clerk had to be involved, since Lawrence (I think) says it’s too much to believe that both robbers were shot right in the heart by the clerk during a stick-up.
I think those are all the unanswered questions I was left with. I was momentarily distracted from all of them by the confusing but beautifully-written ending. Does Bond live or die? Since he thinks he’s on the beach and then wakes up to find he’s in the hospital, I saw him letting go of the fishing rod as him letting go of trying to die, but I don’t know. He decides that his life isn’t worth living since he figures out that he’s been a pretty big asshole his whole life, and definitely his whole career, so maybe he does die. I called it from the beginning, though, that he would turn out not to have cancer. Lacy bends over backward to convince us of what a racist bigot Bond is. If you’re not a WASP, you’re nothing but a racist or religious slur to Bond. The “Lawson is a fag” was just about over the top. It was funny and so-not-funny at the same time. At least I know Lacy was probably not that bad himself, since he did such a good job of writing several strong African-American characters in Room to Swing. That's unfortunately more than I can say for Raymond Chandler, based on his writing.
The ending was beautiful, but I was disappointed overall, since I feel like we’re cheated out of an explanation and tying up of loose ends, especially after being subjected to all of Bond’s belching, sweating, diarrhea and suicide attempts.