The Barnes & Noble Review
Brutally realistic, unrelenting, explosive, and as utterly addictive as its title implies; Sara Gran's Dope -- a heartrending portrait of a recovering heroin junkie trying to find meaning in her life on the streets of 1950s New York City -- is one of those of those exceedingly rare literary gems that offer the reader complete immersion into another reality, in this case the seedy, drug-infested underbelly of NYC complete with hustlers, junkies, and hookers.
Josephine Flannigan's nightmarish existence finally has a glimmer of hope. After a poverty-stricken childhood in Hell's Kitchen (where, because of her drug-addicted mother's neglect, she had to practically raise her little sister herself) and decades of doing hard-core drugs and committing petty crimes, Josephine has been clean for almost two years -- and when she is approached by a wealthy couple from Westchester to help find their heroin-addicted daughter for $1,000 in cash, she immediately agrees. Josephine's search for the wayward socialite and her pimp boyfriend, however, leads her right back to people and places she never wanted to revisit -- for good reason…
Equal parts Stephen Crane's Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting, this dark and disturbing noir mystery will have readers in a state of emotional turmoil until the very last page, where, in the novel's brilliantly understated final sentence, the author's message is conveyed with all the force of a sledgehammer blow between the eyes. Like the scarred-over track marks on a recovering heroin addict's skin, Gran's Dope will stay with readers long after they've finished this haunting and powerfully moving novel. Paul Goat Allen
Josephine Flannigan was nobody's role model. After a rough childhood in New York's Hell's Kitchen, she lurched into a back-alley life of drugs and trouble. By 1950, "Joe" is clean, but not without cash-flow problems. When a suburban family offers her $1,000 to find their daughter, a Barnard student lost down the hole of heroin addiction, she can't resist. Unfortunately, Flannigan's descent into an inferno she knows too well offers neither easy answers nor even the barest sense of security. Raw, harrowing, and street-smart.
"An astonishing novel, one that deserves a place of honor next to Hammett, Thompson and Chandler...one of the meanest, grittiest hard-boiled crime stories of ever written - and the first great noir novel from the mind of a woman."
"Gran treats us to a grim but oddly elegiac tour of the good-old, bad-old days."
New York Times Book Review
After her well-received horror tale Come Closer, you can't blame Gran for trying her hand at a 1950s noir, but her turns on stripped-down conventions are less sharp this time out. Gran's heroine, Josephine "Joe" Flannigan, is a former heroin addict and hooker who has recast herself as a petty thief and con. Working her home turf, New York City's Hell's Kitchen, she is taken up by a mysterious well-to-do couple offering her $1,000 up front and another $1,000 on delivery to find their addict daughter, expelled from Barnard and lost to the streets. The reader never actually sees Joe do any thieving or conning, because she's got that $1,000 to ride on. Instead, Joe's search for the missing coed takes her on a clich -ridden tour of the bare apartments and public parks frequented by the junkies who used to be her friends. (And it's the '50s, so teenagers listen to 45s, and black Chevrolets are still cool.) Joe's troubled relationship with little sister Shelley is a very engaging conflict, but Gran doesn't bring them together often enough. It never occurs to Joe that she may be being conned herself, and her hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold routine wears thin, but she's easy to root for. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Gran's third novel, as original and compelling as her first two (Saturn's Return to New York, 2001, etc.), is of an ex-junkie grifter, now hired to find a missing college girl in 1950 Manhattan. Josephine Flannigan is lucky to have made it to her 30s. Raised rough in Hell's Kitchen, she never expected much from life. She has scraped by, pulling small cons, shoplifting, whoring when times were particularly bad-just about anything to get enough for her next fix. Clean for the past two years, Joe cashes in the occasional ring from Tiffany to pay for her furnished room and lunch at the automat. Now a $2,000 proposition comes along-a wealthy Westchester couple is looking for their daughter, a former Barnard student, now a junkie-and who better than Joe to search every shooting gallery and dance hall likely to house a pretty young girl. They give Joe a picture of their Nadine standing with a mystery man (who turns out to be Jerry McFall, a dealer and pimp), and Joe is on the case, an unlikely though effective gumshoe. Joe begins to gather leads, touring New York's sleaziest spots, reconnecting with old friends, lifelong junkies and hustlers. She also bumps into her kid sister, Shelley, now a rising TV star. Shelley's cleaned herself up and put the past behind her, including Joe, who admits she did a lousy job as surrogate mother, putting too much junk into her arm and not enough food on Shelley's dinner plate. Her leads pay off, but no sooner does Joe find McFall than he's murdered, and the cops haul Joe in as their #1 suspect, and for good reason. Joe's been framed, the victim of a dangerous con (the Westchester couple were actors) to find McFall, and now Joe needs to uncover who set her upbefore the police book her for murder. A gripping mystery, but Gran's real success is in recreating 1950s New York-the petty cons, the taxi dancers, the dank hotel rooms-a mosaic of everything sad and ugly about addiction. Burroughs meets Hammett in this gritty, at times tragic, noir.
[An] oddly elegiac tour of the good-old, bad-old days. (New York Times Book Review)
[A] pitch-black mystery. (Washington Post)