From Publishers Weekly
Ray, the 30-year-old protagonist of Tafoya's raw and redemptive debut, is a sure bet loser. His mother's dead, his abusive father in prison. His own lengthy record includes car theft, burglary and a two-year jail stint. For the past year, Ray and his buddy Manny have been robbing dope dealers and meth labs in the Philadelphia area. Ray and Manny hit small operations disguised as DEA agents, knowing their victims can't go to the cops and don't have the resources to come after them. Inevitably, a job goes bad, resulting in gunshots and death. With too much money at stake and serious bad guys on his trail, Ray realizes that the criminal phase of his life is over. Tafoya gradually reveals pieces of Ray's past while detailing his increasingly desperate efforts to rid himself of those dogging him and threatening anyone connected to him. A boy born into the life makes a wrenching attempt to change course or die trying in a first novel that marks Tafoya as a writer to watch. (May)
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Ray and Manny, flashing bogus badges and wearing DEA windbreakers purchased at a “flea market in Jersey,” take down small drug dealers in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It’s easy and lucrative, but they know it can’t last: “Everyone was high. Everyone was stupid. Everyone had guns.” Reality, in the form of New England bikers trying to muscle into the Philadelphia–New Jersey drug trade, rears its head quickly, and Ray and Manny are on the run. But that’s only half of this fine first novel. An abusive, criminal father and a number of jail stints beginning in high school seem to have doomed Ray to relive his father’s sordid life, but Ray is a bright man looking for a shot at redemption. When it comes, redemption is both unlikely and interesting. Tafoya is off to a promising start: Ray and a number of other characters are quirky and engaging. The locale of Bucks County, which ranges from city gritty to bucolic beauty, works well. The plotting is solid, and the action has a hard, violent edge that recalls Richard Price. --Thomas Gaughan
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