Richard Price is a critics’ darling, praised for his powers of observation, his dialog, the authenticity of his urban landscapes, and his characters. No argument here. Lush Life examines a New York City mugging/murder and the ensuing investigation, which takes everyone involved in startling and unexpected directions.
Late one night, Ike Marcus declines to hand over his wallet, and is shot dead. One of his companions, staggering drunk, either faints or pretends to, proving all but useless as a witness, tho he takes advantage of his newfound notoriety to advance his acting career. Ike’s other companion gives the police such a confused version of events that he falls under suspicion himself. The police, Matty and Yolanda grill him so mercilessly, that, after he’s cleared, he no longer wishes to cooperate with the investigation.
The victim’s family flies apart like a star going nova. The father, completely off the rails, tries to involve himself in the investigation. The mother carries on a sort of flirtation with the cop, Matty, who has family problems of his own. The other cop, Yolanda, one of the great characters of this decade, being from the streets herself, manages to find a touch of empathy for even the worst suspect. She uses that empathy ruthlessly. The murderer, a bullied kid, actually manages to muster a degree of self esteem out of having killed a man, standing up to his martinet step-father for the first time. Like a Greek chorus every few chapters, we see the Quality of Life cops, fooling nobody with their plain clothes and their taxi, having plenty of manpower to bust people for joints or broken tail lights, while the murder investigation starves.
Richard Price isn’t prolific. Tho he does some screenplays, this is his first novel in five years, a likely Pulitzer candidate, and an easy recommendation.