Book Review: Harlem Shuffle

Raymond Carney is a standup guy. He may not have grown up on Striver’s Row like his wife, but he owns a successful furniture store and cares for his family in a way his own father never did. It’s his position on [mostly] the right side of the law that eases his mind, even when his snobbish father in law chides him for not striving quite hard enough. But it’s his cousin he just can’t say no to. Ever since they were children, Ray and Freddie have been like brothers, with Freddie constantly getting into mischief. Once again, Freddie ropes Ray into one of his schemes and Ray finds himself entangled in Harlem’s underworld. A master of compartmentalization, Carney the family man and Carney the fence have been occupying two totally different worlds, but as the novel progresses through its three parts – each a caper – the line between those two worlds begins to blur. Is it Carney…or is everyone actually a little bit crooked?

As much as this is a novel about heists, it’s also a slice of life of Harlem in the 1960s. We get to meet eccentric characters like a jeweler named Moskowitz, an old enforcer named Pepper, and Miss Laura, the hooker. With each section of the novel reflecting a different view of ambition, it’s clear we’re all striving.

4 out of 5 stars.

Pair with: Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda