On a frozen winter evening this past January, I caught Bronx-born crime novelist Richard Price interviewing fellow author Matthew Burgess inside The Astoria Bookshop two blocks from my house in Queens. Price, a man with small, frail hands and eyes practically popping out of their sockets, looked all of his 65 years but still possessed the wit and storyteller’s charm that helped him author Clockers and Lush Life and five episodes of HBO’s “The Wire.” Asked by an audience member what motivated him to write in the morning, he responded “Adderall.” Price meant his quip to elicit the laughter that followed but it also appeared he spoke truth.

The Whites, Price’s new crime book under the nom de plume Harry Brandt, has so many subplots running amid the overarching plot that to make it all come together Adderall, or a mind-crystallizing substance like it, would have to be in play. There are the cop ride-along aspects, the whodunit murder mysteries, the reflections on fatherhood and friendship and the underlying tension that shit is about to break bad, really bad. The book, as a page-turner, likewise provides the sensation of taking Adderall – that jolt, that hit, that feeling that the task at hand is the only task that matters and no distraction will stand in its way until completion.

The book revolves around Billy Graves, an NYPD cop with a sordid past who once rolled with a fast and loose detective group called the Wild Geese. Throughout the book the former group’s “Whites”, their term for perps who got away with murders, haunt them as they attempt to go on with their new careers and families. The past is just a scab that bleeds all over the present for Graves and his friends. A stalker with a connection to Graves emerges with his own shadow chapters to the main narrative, seemingly destined from the start to confront Graves. There are enough skeletons between the book’s characters, all of whom straddle the line between protagonists and antagonists, to populate a graveyard, no pun intended.

Graves, as the book’s central focus, serves as a way for Price to reflect on how well we know those closest to us, how we hurt and disappoint them and how, if we’re fortunate, we redeem ourselves. The Whites is also about standing up for those who stood up for you, even in the hard times. It’s also about vengeance and fathers. Price’s depiction of Graves’ father, a former cop suffering through dementia, is as painful, honest and funny as any in this book of exceptional characters operating in light and shadow, sometimes in the same paragraph.

Not surprisingly given Price’s reputation, The Whites features the snappy dialogue and wit his fans, like my friend who urged me to see Price in person, have come to expect from his oeuvre. There’s also more than a few dashes of mystery and thriller sprinkled throughout this crime novel. And there are questions. Plenty of questions. Even when characters act upon what they see as a righteous motive, their actions could clearly be seen as amoral or illegal. How far then do you go to defend a friend? At what point do the secrets you keep from those closest to you reveal themselves in horrible ways? And: what is the right thing? There are no absolutes in life or this novel, as Price implores the reader to consider.

All of these questions come to a head in the last chapter, a fine crescendo to the book’s building stakes – intense, emotional and messy like the relationships that inhabit our day-to-day lives. In the end, you don’t need Adderall to feel the pulse of Price’s pages or his empathy for his characters and the decisions, sometimes right and sometimes wrong, with which they wrestle.

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