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Bookmarks Issue: 
38-Jan-Feb-2009
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A-Small CrimesDave Zeltserman, author of Fast Lane (2001) and Bad Thoughts (2007), presents another noir thriller.

The Story: The Story: Joe Denton, an ex-cop in Bradley, Vermont, served seven years for stabbing and disfiguring the local district attorney, Phil Coakley, who suspected Joe’s participation in a police corruption ring. Joe’s release from jail, however, doesn’t right past wrongs. When he reenters society, Coakley is waiting in the wings with news about local crime boss Manny Vassey’s imminent death and confessions—which could send Joe back to jail. To make matters worse, the corrupt county Sheriff Dan Pleasant wants Joe to finish the job on Coakley or else, and Joe’s ex-wife and children pretend he doesn’t exist. What is an ex-con with an axe to grind to do when things get even worse?
Serpent’s Tail. 272 pages. $14.95. ISBN: 1852429712

Shotsmag 4 of 5 Stars
"Small Crimes is not for the fainthearted. … At its heart, the novel is about Man’s relationship with God and the moral choices life throws up. And make no mistake: this is an intensely moralistic fable." Damien Seaman

Tangled Web (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Powerfully tense, reading this is like watching a car crash happen, as Joe thrashes like a landed fish trying to survive in a world seriously stacked against him. The characterisation and mental torment are reminiscent of the insightful psychological thrillers of Jim Thompson. Stunning stuff."

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"The plot of Small Crimes is a thing of beauty: spare but ingeniously twisted and imbued with a glossy coating of black humor. Zeltserman takes up all the familiar tropes of the formula—femmes fatales, frighteningly dysfunctional families, self-destructive drives and the death grip of the past—and shows how infinite are the combinations that can still be played on them." Maureen Corrigan

Guardian (UK) 3.5 of 5 Stars
"So far, so noir and, for our anti-hero, it’s downhill all the way to a surprisingly bold ending. Zeltserman manages, in large part, to avoid the sentimentality to which this genre is prone, the plot fairly zips along, and the supporting cast are well-drawn." Laura Wilson

Critical Summary

Published as a paperback original, Small Crimes just might be a small "piece of crime-noir genius," says the reviewer from the Washington Post, and other critics generally agree. Not only does the novel have clean, simple prose, ample suspense and twists, and a fast-paced plot—standard fare; it also offers brilliant psychological insight into tortured souls, and on a deeper level, it is a moralistic tale about how small crimes beget larger ones. A couple of reviewers note some stock background characters, but overall, Small Crimes convincingly depicts the wide-ranging effects of police corruption in small-town America.