CENTRAL CITY has two mysteries at its core–the identities of the father and two sons in the tragic prologue, and the identity of a serial killer eighteen years later–and author Indy Perro weaves these mysteries together skillfully, offering up clues in tantalizing tidbits. Whoever they are, it’s clear that Central City itself is the main character in Perro’s mind–a place where despair and degradation eat away at men’s hearts and souls, and the birth of a serial killer seems almost inevitable. Perro sprinkles red herrings throughout the narrative and due to Central City’s relentless dehumanization, the reader will feel that any of them could be the culprit.
But as good as Perro is at constructing plot, it’s the characters and language of CENTRAL CITY that are the real stars. Veteran detective Vinnie Bayonne doesn’t just investigate crimes, he “listens” to them, because “most cases busted at the seams with something to say”. Kane Kulpa, the philosophical ex-con, is the strong and quiet support to his friends, the mentally-challenged mute Molly Matches, the “baby-faced knuckle-dragger” Bruno Pantagglia, and a host of other well-drawn and often painfully funny miscreants. The delicious prose and gumshoe banter will put readers of CENTRAL CITY in a quandary– they’ll want to plunge forward to solve the mystery, but will have to read slowly because there are so many passages and descriptions to linger over and savor.
For example, a description of a seedy tavern called Alfie’s: “If the cows ever came home, and don’t hold your breath, they’d steer clear of this barn-turned-meat-market”; when Bayonne has to break it to a woman that her husband is a murder suspect: “[He} could smell her breath, a mixture of the morning’s coffee, the tobacco massaging her lungs, and the bitter pill she’d swallowed.” There are so many great turns of phrase, the reader may feel the desire to start the book over again at the beginning, regardless of knowing who the killer is. On that note, although the mystery is solved in a satisfying way that ties up all the loose threads of the narrative, the ending of CENTRAL CITY is strangely abrupt. Perhaps Perro felt there was nothing left to say about this world and wanted to go out on a “Forget about it, Jake, it’s Chinatown” note. Regardless, the time spent in CENTRAL CITY will not be soon forgotten by the reader.
With its intricate plot and delicious, film noir-ish prose, CENTRAL CITY is an engrossing murder mystery helmed by two familiar yet originally drawn characters: the hard-boiled detective and the world-weary antihero, straight out of the best of pulp fiction.
~Shari Simpson for IndieReader