BLOOD COUNT

Written by Reggie Nadelson

Review written by LJ Hurst

Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung


BLOOD COUNT
Atlantic Books
RRP: £12.99
Released: 1st February 2011
Pbk
BLOOD COUNT will drop you in a cold winter in a bleak city. You may have come from places that once coped better with the snow, you may have come from places that coped better with social collapse, you may have had acquaintances who were friends you could once trust. Then you find yourself in a decaying apartment building on the edge of Harlem. You could go down to the basement where the dead dogs are found, you could go up to the roof where it is so easy to slip over the edge, but you will not find it easy to escape.

Set between the election of Barack Obama and his inauguration – actually in just one weekend between – Blood Count takes detective Artie Cohen into the Armstrong Apartment building where the residents are in a physical condition not much better than the block itself. Some are black – elderly professionals for whom this was once a place of aspiration, some are Russian – elderly artistes, their careers long over. Now trapped in their homes, the thing most have in common they express in conversations about their prescription medicines. Whether you would want a physician neighbour who could prescribe for you, though, if you knew he was also in favour of euthanasia, is a more difficult question to answer. Artie Cohen, though, has to try to identify whether an old lady dying did so through mischance or malice. What makes the decision more difficult, though, is the prospective owner of the building who is also trying to acquire the leases to the building – refurbishments and higher rents could be on the way.

 What makes Artie Cohen the detective to deal with this (and luckily the police are willing to use him) is that he was a child immigrant to the USA, moving from the Soviet Union, is still a Russian speaker, with an understanding of those old émigrés and of the others who came later as icy perestroika cracked and others later still as the opportunity to use their criminal skills became obvious. Hidden by the ice and snow and ancient animosities, though, it will take Artie a long time to discover the connections.

 If the action of Blood Count will drop you in a cold winter in a bleak city. You may have come from places that once coped better with the snow, you may have come from places that coped better with social collapse, you may have had acquaintances who were friends you could once trust. Then you find yourself in a decaying apartment building on the edge of Harlem. You could go down to the basement where the dead dogs are found, you could go up to the roof where it is so easy to slip over the edge, but you will not find it easy to escape.

 If the action of Blood Count takes place over a weekend why should it take Cohen a long time? That time is subjective – like Reggie Nadelson’s earlier Cohen books such as Londongrad, this is a long book, and apparently slow moving, taking chapters to build up the atmosphere of the building and its residents. Only when I reached the last hundred pages or so did I feel I was reading a crime thriller, earlier it reads like an updating of Dostoevsky. Then it becomes obvious who has aspirations and what they hope for; of what they would do and for who; and how someone might plan to live after their death. I think that you’d be surprised. Blood Count takes place over a weekend why should it take Cohen a long time? That time is subjective – like Reggie Nadelson’s earlier Cohen books such as Londongrad, this is a long book, and apparently slow moving, taking chapters to build up the atmosphere of the building and its residents. Only when I reached the last hundred pages or so did I feel I was reading a crime thriller, earlier it reads like an updating of Dostoevsky. Then it becomes obvious whohas aspirations and what they hope for; of what they would do and for who; and how someone might plan to live after their death. I think that you’d be surprised.
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