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    Tuesday, May 30, 2023

    Boston bike messenger an unlikely sleuth in clever thriller

    “A Town Called Malice” by Adam Abramowitz; St. Martin’s (320 pages, $26.99)


    A bicycle messenger may seem a most unlikely sleuth, but Adam Abramowitz makes a persuasive case for his character Zesty Meyers in the second novel in this series.

    Zesty thrives on being a bit reckless, “taking even greater risks on Boston’s nonsensical streets,” lives a bit off the grid while also pursuing a second career as a stand-up comic. Zesty’s background also has made him a bit of an outsider — his mother was a revolutionary bank robber who went missing for decades, his father ran Boston’s best underground poker games and was a political fixer. And his brother, Zero, runs a moving and storage company that hires ex-convicts.

    But “A Town Called Malice” goes beyond Zesty avoiding Boston traffic and potholes — although there is plenty of that. Abramowitz also looks at Boston’s regentrification and how the Big Dig, the city’s mega highway project, has affected its neighborhoods and economy. Those once run-down areas have been reborn, with skyrocketing rents.

    Zesty is asked by homicide detective Batista Wells to find out who tried to firebomb a comedy club and the owner of a private detective agency wants him to follow a man and keep track of what he does. These are not jobs for ordinary bike couriers, but then Zesty, as both his new employers acknowledge, pays attention, even if it seems as if he is not. He owes that perception to all those late night poker games to which his father dragged his two sons. While his father would play, his sons would watch the players’ facial expressions and habits. It taught Zesty to understand body language and to be aware even when it seemed as if he wasn’t. The cases lead to a midnight basketball league, a real estate scheme and a look at Boston’s now shuttered rock clubs and the bands that played there.

    Abramowitz weaves a solid partnership of place and people in the clever “A Town Called Malice.”


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