Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26, 464 pp.
Best known for his 1992 novel Clockers, Richard Price writes gritty and urbane police procedurals whose nuanced realism is informed by modern sociology. In Price’s novels, the modern city is more than a mere setting for a crime; it is a character itself, a perilous, richly populated ecosystem governed by ruthless economic and social forces. There is little hope in Price’s fiction, and even less justice. His plots feature few true villains, but many desperate pawns—often young men acting out of anger and frustration. This is a world where crime often pays, and the rare honest detective, overworked and trapped in bureaucratic red tape, only sometimes gets his man. It is a vision of the modern city without hope.
Clockers was very much a novel of the early 1990s, a time when the news brought sobering studies of inner-city youth, reports of corrupt cops, and statistics showing crime rising throughout America’s cities. It was an era when Times Square was still known for its peepshows—before the vaunted Giuliani cleanup and Disneyfication of 42nd Street, before wave after wave of moneymaking turned Manhattan into the capital of a new Gilded Age. On the surface, the New York of today is a vastly different city from the New York of fifteen or twenty years ago. Yet the new novel, Lush Life, suggests that beneath its veneer of gentrification, New York remains the same. The poor are still poor, the...