Tom & Lucky (and George & Cokey Flo) has everything you want in a ‘30s crime novel: filthy New York alleyways, a mobster with a knack for staying alive, and a scarlet woman with secrets you’ll be dying to know.
C. Joseph Greaves (who prefers “Chuck” when he’s slinging noir) employs a sharp-tongued narrative voice to lead you through the 1936 trial of real-life mobster and prostitution kingpin Salvatore “Lucky” Luciano. The fact-based thriller is full of twists and will catch you off guard, whether or not you’ve heard the story before. There’s no use in trying to predict what will come next; just let Chuck and Tom and George and Cokey Flo lead the way.
One of the greatest strengths of this novel is Greaves’ woven narrative. He tells the story through POV-sections from each of the four eponymous characters, allowing readers to climb further into the world than would otherwise be possible. We see all sides of the conflict, and are able to understand the kind of complications that usually confuse and muddy legal thrillers. Greaves has obviously done his research, and it shows in his ability to keep the suspense taut, even when it would be simple to Google the end of the story.
Perhaps most exciting is the portrayal of Cokey Flo, a heroin-addicted prostitute-turned-star-witness. Flo, who speaks to us in first-person, has a simultaneous sharpness and grit that is probably what’s kept her alive, and endears her to us almost immediately. Greaves’ characters are all, in their own ways, completely unlikely: Lucky should have been dead long before the beginning of this book, Tom’s introduction into criminal law was more of a stumble, George loves a risk just as much as he loves a solid argument, and Cokey Flo is, well, Cokey Flo. The four together are the perfect recipe for a great noir novel.
Tom & Lucky (and George & Cokey Flo) (Bloomsbury Publishing) has all the elements of a classic courtroom drama, strengthened by the facts and given life and vitality by Greaves’ smartly-written characters and atmospheric, Jazz-Age backdrop. Give this book your attention and you’ll feel like you’re wearing pin-stripes from cover to cover.
Tessa Bryant is a graduate of the Departments of Theatre and English at Lipscomb University. She is a writer, director, administrator, and researcher of the performing and fine arts, and works and guest lectures at Lipscomb University. She is currently pursuing an M.F.A. in Creative Writing.
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