The Pequod Review:
Lush Life is Richard Price’s masterpiece, one that combines the superb dialogue and realistic settings of his earlier books with a more cohesive plot. Set in early 2000s Manhattan, the novel begins as a fairly straightforward murder investigation involving the mugging of three drunk white men by two teenagers on the Lower East Side. One of the three victims dies, while the two assailants escape; meanwhile the two surviving victims were too inebriated to offer help as witnesses. The investigation is a satisfactory procedural, but what elevates the book is the way Price uses the case to explore the various individuals touched by the murder — the survivors, the victim’s family, the accused muggers, various NYPD detectives, and members of the media — as well as issues of race and poverty in New York City more broadly. And through it all is Price’s rich and often very funny dialogue:
Eric finally raised his face, stared at Matty, gape-mouthed.
“Yeah, you look me right in the eye, you fucking ant.”
“Matty…” Yolanda finally put out her hand.
“You are a self-centered, self-pitying, cowardly, envious, resentful, failed-ass career waiter. That’s your everyday jacket. Now, add to that a gun and a gutful of vodka? I don’t believe that shooting last night was an accident. I think you were a walking time bomb and last night you finally went off.”
Eric sat there in a rapture of attention, chin uptilted as if for a kiss, his eyes never leaving Matty’s.
“We are giving you one last chance to tell us what happened. Save your own skin and give us any version you want to justify your own part in it, but you get the ball rolling right here, right now… And I swear to fucking Christ, if you hand us one more time that pernicious horse-shit about a, a Hispanic and, or, and, or some, some black guy coming out of the shadows or wherever, I will make sure this goes down for you in the worst possible way.”
They waited, Eric shimmering in his seat, Yolanda giving him the mournful big eye, Matty glaring at him, but praying that he was even vaguely justified in laying into a guy like this.
“All I can say is what happened,” Eric finally said, his voice infinitesimal, his eyes still fixed on Matty’s.
And there you have it.
This is one of the great modern New York City novels, and a superb literary mystery. Highly recommended.