This is a brisk, immensely enjoyable updating of the private eye and noir genres. When we first meet Neal Carey he's a graduate student at Columbia, working on a degree in 18th Century English Literature. But then he receives a call from his "Dad," Joe Graham, who turns out to be the one-armed dwarf who sort of adopted Neal when he was eleven years old and running the streets. A series of flashbacks shows Graham teaching Neal how to survive and grooming him for an eventual position trouble shooting for a shadowy organization called Friends of the Family, who look after the interests of the wealthy clients of the Kitteridge family bank in Providence, RI. Over the years, Neal learned everything from how to tail people to how to search a room without anyone ever knowing, and in the course of these unusual studies, Joe realized that Neal was a gifted student. Eventually the Friends send him to school, but now they need him for a special assignment.
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