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July 15, 2014

Felony of the Week: The Dead Sit Round in a Ring, by David Lawrence

What is it about damage, neuroses, emotional baggage that makes for such interesting reading? Is it that happy people, like happy families, are all alike? Does their alike-ness consist, as in “Annie Hall,” of being “very shallow and empty, [with] no ideas and nothing interesting to say”? As an angst-ridden teenager, I was very pleased to believe this hypothesis (“You’re just happy because you’re too stupid to be miserable!”), but in truth, it doesn’t really hold up. My friend Liz, for example, isn’t remotely shallow and empty, and yet she appears to be a pretty happy person, though maybe she has pots of rage that I don’t know about, boiling away inside and ruining her psychic manicure.

If Detective Sgt. Stella Mooney ever had a manicure, it’s long since shredded – ragged cuticles, polish peeling off in jagged strips. You could blame the vodka (though Stella would swear it’s the only thing holding her nails on at all), but give a nod as well to her sordid, limping love-life, to her lack of anything like a friend, and to The Case, The Case, The Case. The one about the three old geezers found dead and not of natural causes, with a young thug joining them in their trip to the Hereafter. Stella’s boss would love for her to solve the bloody thing. Alternatively, he’d love to kick her back to traffic duty. Stella, mostly, would love another drink.

Think seriously about joining her to knock back a few. The author, David Harsent (“David Lawrence” is in fact a pseudonym) is a much-lauded poet, and the novel’s unabashedly dark theme, combined with his lovely writing, makes for an unusually wonderful read. And this week only, it’s going cheap: The Dead Sit Round in a Ring, 25% off.

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