Pop! Pop! Pop! That's the sound a Beretta makes when it's fired into the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, a starting gun of a sinister sort for Richard Hawke's Speak of the Devil. The syllable ricochets throughout these pagesused to describe both an ex-pugilist's legendary rabbit punch and the crumbling of a car windowlike a subconscious bid for bestsellerdom, and seekers of Gotham-based detective fiction should take to this smart, sharply plotted debut. As the bastard son of the lionized (and vanished) former police commissioner, investigator Fritz Malone (got ethnic?) has a chip on his shoulder and a circuit board's worth of connections. He's the go-to guy when a cryptic criminal known as Nightmare starts exacting cash from the playboy mayor and inflicting wounds all over the city. Malone jumps from Astoria to the Cloisters to South Street Seaport, with enough Upper West Side stops to charter a tour bus.
photo: Lesly Weiner
Hawke: "It can't stay contained."
Speak of the Devil
By Richard Hawke
Random House, 323 pp., $21.95
The zigzag clue-crawl and teeming cast mirror the city's vigor. As Malone says to the mayor, who wants to keep Nightmare a secret, "It can't stay contained." Or as a lawyer muses about a maniacal client, "I guess you can't put out a restraining order to keep someone away from everyone else in the world. I guess that's called prison."