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The Nightworkers


The Nightworkers

My opinions and impressions of THE NIGHTWORKERS were all over the place for a great deal of the story. Nearly all of the characters were fascinating and fully realized within a paragraph or two, but they disappeared all too quickly. Taken in parts, Brian Selfon’s debut may have its occasional weaknesses, but as a whole it is one of the best novels of the year thus far.

The book is about a family of criminals, but this isn’t one of your grand-concept Corleone stories. The family here moves great sums of money from criminal enterprises to offshore banks and back again. The head of the three-person unit is Shecky Keenan, who prepares large family breakfasts for his nephew Henry and niece Kerasha. The familial ties are beginning to stretch as the novel kicks off.

"The conclusion is stunning; in fact, I need to read the book again to examine how he got everyone to where he did."

Henry, who is in his early 20s, is an integral part of Shecky’s business, managing the physical transfer of large amounts of cash to places where it can be quietly offloaded. He is an aspiring artist who is attracted to Emil, a rising star on the New York art scene. Emil, whose income has not quite caught up to his reputation, keeps body and soul together by doing a bit of dealing on the side, and Henry recruits him as a runner. Two things happen: the intricate system that Shecky has created begins to collapse, and Emil suddenly disappears after picking up a deposit.

Whether or not these incidents are connected is an unresolved element for a good portion of the book. Henry also has acquired an extremely dangerous girlfriend who is a treacherous combination of sweet and sour and is slowly bending him to her own purposes.

Kerasha is a more complicated soul. She is a recovering heroin addict who has been conditionally released from prison. Her major talent is an almost preternatural ability to burglarize, which ultimately resulted in her incarceration. Part of the condition for her release is her participation in counseling sessions with Andrew Xu. Dr. Xu is a somewhat off-putting psychiatrist who holds Kerasha’s freedom in her hands. Kerasha’s problems are aggravated by her compulsions --- addiction and stealing --- even as she exhibits a wide and deep appreciation for classic literature in her spare time.

Shecky is faced with trying to keep his business and his family together, often finding that when he does something to reach one of those goals, it moves the other further away. There are surprises to be found on the paths that he takes, and not all of them are good.

I underlined a number of passages in THE NIGHTWORKERS. Even as I struggled occasionally with Selfon’s pacing and plotting, his turns of phrase were remarkable from beginning to end. The conclusion is stunning; in fact, I need to read the book again to examine how he got everyone to where he did. I hope that his future novels will return to the streets and the characters he has introduced here.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 9, 2020

The Nightworkers
by Brian Selfon

  • Publication Date: October 5, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Picador
  • ISBN-10: 1250800196
  • ISBN-13: 9781250800190