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What Goes Around Comes Around: A Mystery Novel Featuring Bartender Brian McNulty (Bartender Brian McNulty Mysteries) Hardcover – January 13, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Beyond the writing, there are two fundamental challenges in developing an amateur-sleuth mystery. First, the protagonist has to be at least somewhat credible--neither too ingenious nor too lucky. Second, the case at hand must be one that a non-professional could reasonably become involved in and help to resolve. To satisfy these requirements, author Con Lehane, in What Goes Around Comes Around, gives us slackerish, 40-something New York City bartender Brian McNulty, who confesses to confusion as he pursues the slayer of an old crony, Aaron Adams, found floating in the East River, right outside the fancy club where McNulty has taken over bar manager duties.

As in Lehane's much-extolled previous novel, Beware the Solitary Drinker, there's plenty of elbow-bending action and seedy ambience to relish in these pages, as McNulty hobbles, cabs, and house-breaks his way across late-1980s Manhattan. Lending him assistance (more or less) are his cynical father, a retired investigative reporter and unflagging Communist ever wary of his son consorting with corporate kings, and "Big John" Wolinski, a kind and trusted "bro" from McNulty's idealized days "working the stick" in Atlantic City, who's now a hospitality chain honcho. What nags at our hero is that Adams's murder reminds him of the deaths, 15 years before, of two other members of their Atlantic City circle. Could all these tragedies be related, perhaps by Greg Phillips, a fellow bar dog who hasn't been seen since Adams's corpse was found? Or maybe by Big John's reportedly mob-connected father, who's reappeared in town under an assumed name? Before he can answer such questions, the decent but naïve McNulty will be charged with burglary and shot in the leg by a drive-by Latino gunman, fall in love not just once but three times (including with a former flame from the Jersey Shore), expose a pal's double life, betray his teenage son's misplaced faith in Brian's bravery, and realize only too late how mistakes from the past can hurt people in the present.

Its author's own experience behind the plank that lends the McNulty series resonance, and the characters here--with the exception of a fetching female physician--are satisfyingly sculpted and frequently comic. While there are discrepancies in What Goes Around's time line, the greater problem is the complexity of Lehane's quirky tale, and its repetition of plot devices, both of which slow the novel's pace. Still, as a dilettante detective, Brian McNulty boasts the spirited potential of a long-cellared cabernet. Let's see what adventures he can uncork next. --J. Kingston Pierce

From Publishers Weekly

A repetitious and slogging plot weighs down Lehane's second Brian McNulty mystery, set in the late 1980s, a few years after the action in his well-received debut, Beware the Solitary Drinker (2002). When bartender McNulty finds an old acquaintance dead near the hotel where he works, he's drawn into a search for the killer by his mentor, John Wolinski, now an executive with a hospitality chain. The trail leads to Atlantic City, where McNulty met Wolinski, and to colleagues and crimes from the past. McNulty is a decent, persistent man with strong loyalties—to old friends, his father's leftist politics and his union—but his detective skills need honing. The reader becomes dizzy as McNulty travels back and forth across the Hudson, searching for shreds of clues that rarely advance the investigation until the solution almost falls in his lap. As in his first novel, Lehane empathizes with working stiffs and creates an arresting cast of colorful characters; he also brings alive the dark, offbeat world behind the facade of luxury hotels and bars. Hopefully, his next book will be as good as his first.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Series: Bartender Brian McNulty Mysteries (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1st edition (February 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312322984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312322984
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,360,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Con Lehane is a mystery writer, living outside Washington, DC. He's published three books featuring New York City bartender Brian McNulty. You can read reviews of them on his web site www.conlehane.com/reviews.html. He has just completed (writing the last few chapters at the Dairy Hollow Writers' Colony) a new mystery, featuring New York City librarian Raymond Ambler (who happens to be a friend of the aforementioned McNulty) that he hopes is the beginning of a new series. Over the years, he has worked as a college professor, a union organizer, a labor journalist, and has tended bar at two-dozen or so drinking establishments.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. T. Guzman on January 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is the first book I've read by Con Lehane even though it's the second one in the Brian McNulty series. In this story, I find a naïve and trusting bartender who keeps up with his friends over the years. Sadly, his friends' lives are not very straight, and bartender Brian gets involved in an intrigue about which he has no knowledge. There are some murders and unanswered questions. The reader is pulled along with this quasi-hero to try to figure out what is happening. Brian is quite a likable fellow. He takes everything in stride with countless dry quips about his and his friends' situations. His sense of humor is enchanting.

The story flows along well until Brian's one specific encounter with a woman named Sandra. I don't like that interlude and feel it adds nothing to the story. However, the fun of reading this book and discovering what is happening to Brian's friends makes for an overall enjoyable read. As the ending of the book nears, the story becomes more gripping and simply doesn't let up until all of the unexplained pieces of McNulty's puzzle fall into place. This is a very good book. I would definitely like to read other books about bartender Brian, preferably starting with the first of Lehane's series.
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Format: Hardcover
Brian McNulty would like to be an actor, but since no jobs ever come his way he has settled on being a bartender in New York City. Brian's laid-back life suddenly takes a turn when some old friends from his Atlantic City days, Big John Wolinski and Greg Phillips, come calling. They want him to start working at the upscale Ocean Club, but on his first night there, the body of another old acquaintance is found in the water off the pier, and Greg goes missing. Brian decides the best way to find Greg is to look in their old Atlantic City haunts, so he returns to his old stomping grounds and begins overturning the rocks of his past. Instead of answers, however, he seems to only turn up more mysteries, plus he's got guys trying to kill him and winds up tangling with some Chilean revolutionaries. By the time it's all said and done, Brian realizes almost nothing in his life is as it once seemed, and it seems some of the people he knows he never really knew at all.

I really wanted to like this book, but couldn't quite manage it. I simply couldn't care about any of the characters. Low-level hoods and second-rate bartenders just aren't all that interesting. I'm not exactly fascinated by a guy whose golden moment consists of pouring the perfect drink and handing it off to a chesty female customer. Plus, the plot went nowhere. Everything of any import that happened occurred before the story got rolling, and the entire book consisted of Brian's ruminations and speculation about days gone by in the distant past. Yet, no matter how much he thought about everything, he never seemed to come any closer to figuring out what was going on. Nobody he questioned ever gave him any useful information. Then suddenly, at the end, he managed to put all the pieces together.
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Format: Hardcover
Con Lehane writes about trade union troubles in New York City with authority. He's been a union organizer and knows his subject. His lead character, Brian McNulty, is a product of Atlantic City, New Jersey --- the son of a union man who fought his battles in the name of the commoner, as a Communist. McNulty's past will not release its grip on him when he finds himself at war with his own Bartenders Union. He's back on the job after a six-month hiatus when he serves a customer from the far regions of his childhood in Jersey. Big John Wolinski turns out to be the regional manager for the Sheraton chain.

A second childhood memory emerges in the voice of Greg Phillips, who contacts Big John on the bar phone. He's asking for advice. Greg is the barkeep who trained McNulty in the trade and now works for Big John at the Ocean Club in Manhattan. Big John has made it big in the business world but looks to the needs of old friends when they call. Arriving, Greg takes Big John aside and confides that he has come to the Sheraton to fire his old friend over McNulty's union troubles. Instead, he offers Brian a job as bar manager at the Ocean Club in Manhattan, a short-term solution. Greg is there, under the thumb of club manager Aaron Adams.

On McNulty's first night, he's drawn to the pier by a loud commotion near the giant yachts docked there. Near its hull, the water beside the most gleaming boat slops against a body, that of a man in a tuxedo. The victim, knifed and dumped in the water, is identified as Aaron Adams. Later, Greg fails to show up for his shift.

Lehane depicts his characters well. Personalities jump from the page and become believable links to a past neighborhood where little boys had tough knowledge well beyond their years, learning to survive enough to leave it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Con Lehane's bartending sleuth, Brian McNulty, was born into the 99% long before anyone ever used the term. He's always on the side of the little guy, one of which he is and always will be. Unlike many NYC-based crime-solvers, the proof of his NYC authenticity is that he knows his way as well around Brooklyn and The Bronx. And, in What Goes Around Comes Around, Atlantic City, where Brian made friends years ago during one of his first bartending jobs. No sooner has Brian moved out of his West Side cocoon to a new gig than the corpse of an old Jersey pal is found floating in the nearby East River. Another old Atlantic City crony, John Wolinski, who has worked his way up the hotel chain management ladder, hires Brian to nail the killer.

There's little time for elbow-bending as Brian doggedly criss-crosses Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Jersey shore repeatedly, teasing out a strand here, a connection there, falling in and out of and back in love, trying not to let his own loosely-wrapped ways appeal too strongly to his teenaged son, and trying to live up to the undentable ideals of his lifelong communist father. The latter understandably is leery of Brian's new ties to the corporate world. Then there's the corporate biggie's mob-connected father, lying low in Brooklyn under an assumed name. Brian is shot at, lied to, disappoints and is disappointed, but eventually shakes the sand out of his shoes (and out of his eyes) and puts things to rights in his endearingly messy way. McNulty is the rare kind of guy you'd like to see a series built around.
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