‘The Gypsy Twist: A Max Royster Mystery’
The Gypsy Twist: A Max Royster Mystery
Published by Pigtown Books: 2012. 189 pp.
Go ahead. Have fun. Summer vacation definitely beckons — and this is an ideal book to tuck into your beach bag for your well-deserved break from the classroom.
I’m not normally a fan of mysteries, but Frank Hickey’s assured, confident voice could make me a convert (or at least to his work). He knows his way both around the genre, and the world of detectives, suspects, low-lifes and hard-boiled reporters. The result is a compelling page-turner about a serial killer who preys upon rich students, in perhaps the ultimate scary teacher revenge.
Hickey’s detective, Max Royster, is an incisive and cynical observer of what he and his colleagues term the “Playpen” of the Upper East Side (will be hard for me to walk around Madison or Park Avenue again without seeing those exalted locales through Max’s perspective). As he writes, “I call it the Playpen because it is so well protected. Safe enough for children to play in. You could live and die in the neighborhood without ever having to see the real, the dirty side of life. If you stagger home dead drunk, a doorman will catch you before you fall flat on the sidewalk. Politicians, bartenders, businessmen and cops all cooperate to keep the Playpen safe for its wealthy inhabitants. There is no other neighborhood like it in the city. Maybe the world.”
Hickey captures perfectly the world of privilege that informs elite, pricey private schools, as well as the benign disdain that its inhabitants display, often unknowingly, towards those who work for them.
Add in some detours to New Orleans and San Francisco in pursuit of a truly creepy serial killer (much better to read this on a sunny beach instead of a cobweb-infested summer cabin in the woods), with the requisite red herrings, false leads and pitch-perfect descriptions of those who live on the margins, and you have an ideal summer read.
What makes this even better is that Hickey knows the tropes well enough to play with them, from the film-noir descriptions of women, stereotypes of traditional Irish cops, and the wealthy, with just enough edge to make them contemporary and interesting. In describing a briefing to reporters, Hickey writes, “They nodded like spanked schoolchildren. Like Max, they did not earn enough to live comfortably in the Playpen. They were allowed to work here only so long as they did not upset the working relationship between their publishers and the neighborhood powers.”
Exactly. You’re in excellent hands with this assured writer. Enjoy. #