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A starred Publishers Weekly review. AND: not in the Mystery section, in Fiction.

"ABSENT FRIENDS
S.J. Rozan. Delacorte, $24 (384p) ISBN 0-385-33803-1

New York City Fire Capt. James McCaffery is a hero to everyone who knew him, and many who didnít, even before his death at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. In the aftermath of that awful day, "New York needs heroes," as one character puts it. So itís particularly upsetting to the people McCaffery grew up with on Staten Island when a newspaper reporter suggests he may have been linked to organized crime and a shooting that happened exactly 22 years earlier. On September 11, 1979, Mark Keegan, a childhood friend of McCafferyís and most of the other characters in this rich, beautifully written book, killed a local mob bossís stepson--allegedly in self-defense--and later died in prison. Ever since, someone has been financially supporting Keeganís wife and young son, Kevin. The benefactor turns out to be McCaffery, but why? And where did the money come from? Rozan is a wonderful and insightful writer, and she creates an intricate, intimate portrait of a group of 40-something New Yorkers coping with a city in ruins. But the small mystery of Mark Keegan and Jimmy McCaffery cannot help paling in comparison to the larger evil perpetrated on 9/11, and the scope of the authorís canvas--multiple perspectives and far too many flashbacks--makes the story more convoluted than it deserves to be. Nonetheless, the book powerfully articulates the mix of heartbreak, anger, helplessness and resolve of New Yorkers after 9/11. Agent, Steve Axelrod. (Oct. 5)
FORECAST: The winner of Edgar, Anthony, Macavity and Shamus awards, Rozan is the author of Winter and Night (2002) and other titles in her Bill Smith/Lydia Chin mystery series. With blurbs from Dennis Lehane and Lee Child, this strong stand-alone should help break her out as a mainstream crime writer."

This is major, folks. PW is a big deal. Not only does it say things that make me blush, but saying this book should help me break out is one of those self-fulfilling prophecies. Bookstores and librarians will buy more, and then they'll display more, so more people will pick the book up and leaf through it, etc. And treating it as Fiction rather than Mystery is another sign that they take this book very seriously. Myself, I think these genre distinctions are at best silly and at worst destructive; but from their point of view, they're saying, "Rozan is playing on the grown-ups' court."

I posted the entire review here because I wanted you to see that they didn't completely love the book. The reviewer had a problem with the story-telling process. I made the narrative disjointed and, to use their word, "convoluted," because that's the way the whole 9/11 experience was for so many people, and I wanted the reader to feel that. But this is like the Kirkus reviewer who was disappointed in the plot revelation. In fact the nature of the story-telling was the objection of one editor (not at Bantam/Delacorte): he wanted the story in a straight line. Again, this is like chocolate and vanilla. People who want straight-line stories -- or who read for plot -- aren't right or wrong. They're just apt to be disappointed in certain elements of certain books. The fact that this reviewer gave AF a star is even more gratifying, in fact, because it tells me that the parts that worked REALLY worked.

Needless to say, my publisher is thrilled, and that's a very good thing.


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