Serpents in the Cold

Written by Douglas Graham Purdy Thomas O’Malley
Review by Jane Steen

For Boston natives Cal O’Brien and Dante Cooper, life has been a struggle to survive since World War II. Their old Irish-Polish-Italian neighborhood has fallen into seedy decay, ruled by drugs and prostitution bosses and reeling from the Great Brink’s Robbery of 1950. When the body of Dante’s sister-in-law, Sheila, turns up—the apparent victim of a serial killer called the Butcher—the two old friends take matters into their own hands, fighting their addictions and nightmares as well as the thugs who hold the key to Sheila’s murder.

This literary noir sets its events against the harsh Boston winter of 1951, underscoring the survival mode of its protagonists. True to the genre, Cal and Dante are deeply flawed heroes, redeemed by their loyalty to each other and to others in their circle of family and friends, but ready to step outside the law to render their own version of justice. This novel will make noir fans happy, but I’d also recommend it to readers who don’t usually include noir in their fiction line-up, for its intelligent writing and pacey, yet thoughtful plot. A good read.