A serial killer stalks the streets of 1950s Boston - and two friends take it upon themselves to bring him down.
Post-war Boston is down on its luck and looking for change. A year after the Great Brink's Robbery - the largest robbery in the history of the United States - Boston is known more for its seedy underbelly than for its rich, historical past. The winter of 1951 is the worst in recent memory, and the Bruins are suffering another losing season.
Like Boston itself, lifelong residents Cal O'Brien and Dante Cooper are struggling to find their identities after World War II. Cal has built a mildly promising life for himself as an employee of a company providing private security, whether to an honorable businessman who needs a night watchman or to an Irish mafioso who needs to have someone's legs broken. Dante is everything Cal is not. A heroin addict trying and failing to stay clean, Dante feels the call to do good after he discovers that his sister-in-law was the latest victim of a serial killer targeting disadvantaged women.
Woefully unqualified, but determined to help, Cal and Dante take it upon themselves to track the killer - but their daunting quest takes on dangerous consequences when the trail leads them to the highest ranks of city government. There are a few well-placed men who don't want Cal and Dante to solve this case.
An absorbing mixture of history and suspense, told with a meticulous eye for detail and character, Serpents in the Cold is a moving exploration about two men battling for second chances.
"Like Sara Gran's Dope, Serpents in the Cold lovingly revisits the hardboiled noir. From the dives of Dorchester to the Locke-Ober Café, John Garfield and Richard Widmark would feel right at home in O'Malley and Purdy's bygone, fallen Boston." (Stewart O'Nan, author of West of Sunset)
"Purdy and O'Malley resurrect the neighborhoods of 1950s Boston in faithful, brutal detail - and in language so lush and gorgeous that you'll fall in love with reading it all over again." (Elisabeth Elo, author of North of Boston)
"...a startling work of art, a beautifully rendered, atmospheric tale of crime and punishment set in mid-20th century Boston. The crimes perpetrated are as much of the heart and soul as of the system and the worst punishments, as always, self-inflicted." (Reed Farrel Coleman, award-winning of Robert B. Parker's Blind Spot)
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Great, classic noir! with a Boston spin
This book drips with the dark, brooding atmosphere of Boston in the 50's...a tough city, bound by it's neighborhoods, and a seedy underbelly. The dialogue between characters and description of the city take you back to that place and time and sell the story.
Cal and Dante are the lead characters, and are told with an unflinching eye. These are broken men in a city filled with broken men and women, but they are fully fleshed out characters. They each have so much going on inside, but struggle to connect.
I have listened to several books by Jim Frangione, and was skeptical that his style would fit this story...boy was I wrong! The narrator took this to another level...he really invested the story with drama and an emotional edge.
I really enjoyed this book. I love Raymond Chandler, and put this book among Chandler and other noir classics (Hammett, Goodis)...I know this is pretty exalted company, but I think it fits. The characters make me think of Hubert Selby, Jr...
- Mike Altobello