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Small Town: A Novel Of New York [Paperback]

Lawrence Block
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Mar 2004

A beautiful young woman called Marilyn picks up a stranger in a bar and takes him home to her Manhattan apartment. The next morning her housekeeper discovers Marilyn's body.

Marilyn's life and death have far-reaching effects on others, even people she has never met: a charismatic former police commissioner on the verge of a breakdown; a struggling writer; a folk art dealer plumbing the depths of her own fierce sexuality; a lawyer who prefers murder trials because there's one witness fewer. And in a city reeling from 9/11, an unlikely mass murderer wages a one-man war against everyone.

In this gripping, multi-faceted story, Block not only brings to life in brilliant detail the city of New York, but proves he is one of the most talented, innovative and surprising crime writers in the business.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; New Ed edition (4 Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752858742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752858746
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 4.2 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,122,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Small Town is Lawrence Block's post 9/11 novel and despite its grim inspiration, it's another example of why he writes about New York like no other crime novelist. The death of a young woman, whose body is discovered the night after she picks up a random stranger in a bar, sends ripples through the lives of a disjointed bunch of New Yorkers she never even knew: a dangerous and virtually indiscriminate murderer, a struggling writer who was the last person to be seen with the dead girl but who doesn't remember a thing, a cop facing a total mental collapse and a sexually ambitious art dealer (who stars in some rather perverse and, for Block, unusually graphic sex scenes).

The real joy lies in Block's labyrinthine plotting and connecting the dots between the characters. As always though, the Big Apple is the real star of the show and Block's immense emotional connection with the city shines through his prose. His vivid descriptions of streets and locations at times read like travel guides but they help conjure an engaging and unique atmosphere as oppressive and confining as the city itself often appears. Small Town is not one of Block's best books--try one of the Matthew Scudder novels such as The Devil Knows You're Dead--but as a stand-alone introduction to one of the best spinners of New-York-based crime fiction, it's an excellent starting point and one that all fans of solid American crime-writing should seek out. --Jon Snow --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Erotic, intriguing and thrilling. Block's customary sure-fire plotting, exemplary characterisation and a patent love of the Big Apple translate into a superb read." (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS)

"This is a gripping, scary crime thriller set in the shadows of a city reeling from September 11." (BRADFORD TELEGRAPH & ARGUS)

"Block displays his first class technique of crime-writing in a thrilling tale set amongst the darkened back streets of the city that never sleeps." (CARDIFF WESTERN MAIL)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rivetting 18 Nov 2009
To say Lawrence Block is a prolific writer barely does the man justice. He seems to churn out new titles with amazing regularity - and I've never read a dud. Small Town had me gripped right through until the end, and I cannot recommend it highly enough as a page-turning thriller, but also as a study of a city coming to terms with tragedy and loss on a huge scale. The plotting is absolutely meticulous, and one of Block's many strengths is to set his characters problems and then explain how they solve them - in crisp, clear, wonderfully written prose that demands your attention.

"Unputdownable" is an over-used label by reviewers, but in the case of Small Town, completely justified.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of |New York 11 May 2006
I loved this book!

I'm a fan of Block, I'll admit this up front. But this is a great book.

It is a snap-shot of 'small town' New York. Centred around a district of the city it tells the story of a writer & a range of other characters. It is mellow, erotic & increasingly page-turning. In the end I was hoping the story would not end.

A one-off novel of class & distinction. A great read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well written , multi faced epic!!!!!!!!!! 29 Sep 2003
By A Customer
This book has got to be one of Block's best yet.The many converging elements and characters in this book are great- from an accused writer, a somewhat FIREY art dealer , and a killer who has lost everything .Each one of these characters would make an excellent book on their own and they make this book original and very thought-provoking.The people in the book never get boring as it moves from one to the other rapidly.The descriptions of New York (Block's home city) are fabulous and give the story a real sense of the Big Apple.This book is nowhere near your typical Lawrence Block and that makes it great.This book is a phenomenon just look at the opening sentence:"By the time Jerry Pankow was ready for breakfast he'd already been to three bars and a whorehouse."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small Town? Huge story 17 Sep 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
First time around, Small Town made a huge impact on me. It’s very much a New York story, entirely influenced by 9/11. A decade later I was curious whether it would still feel as powerful, as involving and compelling as it did when Ground Zero was still little more than a hideous smoking hole, a raw wound at the heart of America.

This is not your typical Lawrence Block hard-boiled pulp fiction PI quick thriller. Nor is it some anti-Islamic, homeland security, global conspiracy shindig, packed with racial stereotypes, easy targets and square-jawed heroes. It is, plain and simple, a love song to New York from one of its finest writers.

This love song is threaded throughout an interwoven series of sub-plots involving a cast of New Yorkers; all of them influenced by the events of 9/11. All previously independent and all very different; now drawn together under that overwhelming shadow by a series of much smaller murders.

LB picks up half a dozen of those threads and weaves them into a nifty thriller: there’s a bad guy, of course, who lost everything in the aftermath of 9/11 and is on a mission of near-religious importance to revive the city’s fortunes by sacrificing more people to answer the appalling insult that has been done to it.

Readers more familiar with LB’s detective novels may be a bit surprised by the explicit nature of some scenes (which means, basically, that it all gets a bit kinky at times. OK?) But never fear, if you’d rather stick to the superficial story then that will keep you more than occupied. A series of grisly killings, an able unofficial investigator, a scapegoat who may actually be responsible for at least one death only even he doesn’t know the truth; the looming threat of an awful event – and plenty of naked romping.
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