It’s a classic opening – a woman walks into a lawyer’s office, promising a case too easy and too well-paid to be true; catch her husband trying to sell any of her book collection, provide proof, receive fifteen thousand dollars for just a few hours of work. Somehow, though, it all comes off without a hitch, the money and evidence switch hands, and it begins to look like this will be a very short book. Luckily for readers, it is, of course, only the beginning of the story.
I found An Honest Living entirely compelling; post-pandemic I have struggled to sit down and read for long periods, but when it came to this book I lost track of time again. Our protagonist is nameless and genderless – though the blurb refers to the lawyer as male, there’s no such reference in the novel itself. But far from a shapeless reader-insert, I found them to be an interesting and very well-developed character, one I liked and one whose head was a fascinating place to spend time in.
This is a novel where the journey is the point, rather than the ending. Readers who are familiar with the movie Chinatown will recognize some plot beats, but rest assured – it’s intentional, done as homage and acknowledged in the text. The sense of atmosphere is second to none, and the feeling of those sweltering summer days provides the perfect counterpoint to the darkness of the central investigation.
An Honest Living is an impressive debut, one that serves as a love letter to New York and the noir genre – and establishes the author as a talent for readers to look out for.