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The Death Of An Amiable Child
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 037326433X, Mass Market Paperback)Irene Marcuse's first novel is a delicately delineated triumph, a quiet mystery that revolves around character and setting rather than hotly pursued clues and frantic detection. Anita Servi, a Manhattan social worker, has made a career of tending to the city's elderly. Crippled by arthritis, plagued by shrinking Social Security checks, relegated to dilapidated residence hotels that, with their fading paint and chipped brickwork, "look like the eccentric aunt who didn't get invited to the wedding over on Broadway," her clients still amaze her with their resilience. All the more shocking, then, for Anita and her daughter Clea to stumble over the body of Lillian Raines on their apartment landing. A former client, now homeless, the frail but dignified "Lady of the Landing" had become a fixture in their daily lives. Though the police term Lillian's death an accident, Anita is unconvinced. As she digs deeper into the old woman's shadowy past, ancient grievances come to light, weaving the fixtures of Anita's life--friends, neighbors, clients, coworkers--into an uneasy web of deception and murder. When more elderly women are threatened, it's up to Anita to unravel the tangled threads.
The sights, sounds, and smells of New York's Upper West Side permeate the book. The city bustles and hums, stretching out before Anita and the reader in an intoxicating, vibrant landscape: "Broadway, the street, puts on as good a show as any theater on the Great White Way. One time, Catherine and I saw a tall black man gamboling around in nothing but a pair of red wool socks. Two cops chased after him, lumbering hippos to his graceful gazelle. It made both our days. Who needs TV talk shows?" For all of its pollution and poverty, New York, through Anita's eyes, softens into an appealingly ungainly, overgrown village. It's the kind of place where all one's creature comforts and quotidian rituals may be satisfied in just a few square blocks, where anonymity gives way to recognition.
Marcuse's affectionately drawn characters, canny dialogue, and adept sense of pace set The Death of an Amiable Child far above the usual cadre of earnest but awkward first novels. Readers should look forward with eager anticipation to Anita Servi's next urban appearance. --Kelly Flynn
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:20 -0400)
Anita Servi investigates the death of an elderly woman who occasionally slept in her Upper West Side apartment building.
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