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Squirrrely characters abound

Terri Schlichenmeyer
"The Monsters of Gramercy Park"
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When it comes to books, there’s fiction and there’s non-fiction. One is the result of a fertile mind. The other is the reporting of facts. You know how the true stuff came to be, because the author tells you. But did you ever wonder how those made-up stories are made up?

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between truth and a lie. In “The Monsters of Gramercy Park” by Danny Leigh, the two are nearly indistinguishable.

Author Lizbeth Greene is tanking, as they say. While her first novel, based on her own abduction, was a hit, her latter novels have disappointed almost everyone. Now Lizbeth has writer’s block and she’s feeling fragile. She’s plagued with accidents, she can barely stand to be around anybody, and someone keeps phoning at all hours at her Connecticut home. Then Lizbeth wakes up with the word “Squirrel” scrawled on the back of her hand. She wrote it there in the middle of the night, but she has no recollection of what it could possibly mean.

In the segregation unit of a Pennsylvania prison, Wilson Velez gets a note from his lawyer saying that God is dead. “God” was the nickname that Wilson gave to the judge who sentenced him to the harshest punishment possible: to be housed in Administrative Segregation, completely isolated from all human contact. Now the judge is gone and Wilson may be able to get out of Ad-Seg.

As a young man in New York, Wilson founded the Sacred Incan Royals, a vicious gang that dealt in bloodshed and drugs. Wilson had ruled the clica from Queens, and it boasted thousands of members and a wide reach; in fact, authorities claimed that Wilson ordered several deaths while he was in prison, using codes and letters. To protect others from him, he was sent to Ad-Seg. Now Wilson, who was known as Ardilla or “Squirrel”, is fighting to be released into the main prison population.

When Lizbeth hears about Wilson and his nickname, she believes she was “meant” to make him her next book subject. She secures permission to interview Wilson, only to find a shadow of a once-powerful man. Wilson can barely speak and seems frail, but Lizbeth is intent on using him for her next bestseller.

Meanwhile, Wilson is intent on using Lizbeth to get out of Ad-Seg.

I hear a lot of people complaining that their favorite authors of creepiness don’t write fast enough. From here on in, I’m sending them to this book. “The Monsters of Gramercy Park” is tight, unsettling and eerie, and you’ll be slammed around in the story until you’re not sure who’s telling the truth. Author Danny Leigh then adds tiny little nuances that may or may not have much to do with what’s going to happen, which only piles on the ominous feelings you get when you read this excellent book.

Pick up a copy of “The Monsters of Gramercy Park”. Then keep repeating to yourself, “It’s only a novel. It’s only a novel. It’s only a novel….”.


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