Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Devil's Half Mile by Paddy Hirsch

When Justy Flanagan returns to his hometown of New York, he is changed from his time in England.  He left an angry young man, uneducated and ashamed of his family ties to one of the most powerful underbosses of the city.  His father had just died and he knew he wanted something else, something more.  That same underboss, his uncle, had paid for Justy's time abroad and his education as a lawyer.  Now Justy has returned with a mission, to find out who was responsible for his father's murder.

Justy didn't just get a legal education during his time away.  He also spent time with the fledgling French police who were starting to approach crime and detection in a forensic manner.  Flanagan is fascinated with the ability to scientifically arrive at the truth.  He feels that his return will be profitable on both a financial and a personal level.

At first glance, not much has changed in 1799.  His uncle still rules the waterfront.  The same financial scalawags who almost crashed the nation's economy are still at work, although it took Alexander Hamilton to rescue the nation's economy the last time they plotted to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else.  These financiers are ensconced on the Devil's Half-Mile, or Wall Street.  Justy is able to work his way into their company with his new legal skills and connections.

He soon discovers things are not much better.  Girls are being killed and discarded.  Crime is still rampant everywhere and his best friend, Kerry, has turned to street crime and maybe worse.  Kerry has also grown up and is now a beautiful woman, not the pesky tomboy that followed him everywhere.  Justy realizes that the same men are back to their financial tricks, a modified Ponzi scheme that has the ability to trash the entire economy.  Can Justy prevent their schemes while avenging his father?

Paddy Hirsch has created an intriguing figure in his main character, Justy.  America's colonial times and the start of our government and institutions is under a revival with plays such as Hamilton and TV shows about the era.  The mix of historical fiction and thriller is a potent one and readers will enjoy the mix.  This book is recommended for mystery and history readers.

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