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The Strangler

The Strangler

3.7 59
by William Landay

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Before the New York Times bestselling success of Defending Jacob, William Landay wrote this widely acclaimed second novel of crime and suspense, which was named a Favorite Crime Novel of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and several other newspapers.
Boston, 1963. Meet the charming, brawling Daley brothers. Joe is a


Before the New York Times bestselling success of Defending Jacob, William Landay wrote this widely acclaimed second novel of crime and suspense, which was named a Favorite Crime Novel of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and several other newspapers.
Boston, 1963. Meet the charming, brawling Daley brothers. Joe is a cop whose gambling habits have dragged him down into the city’s underworld. Michael is a lawyer, always the smartest man in the room. And Ricky is the youngest son, a prince of thieves whose latest heist may be his last. For the Daleys, crime is the family business—they’re simply on different sides of it. Then a killer, a man who hunts women with brutal efficiency and no sign of stopping, strikes too close to the Daley home. The brothers unite to find the Strangler, a journey that leads to the darkest corners of Boston—and exposes an even deeper mystery that threatens to tear the family apart.
Includes an excerpt of Defending Jacob


Los Angeles Times • The Guardian • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Kansas City Star

“Reminiscent of Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River, the novel takes us into a dark world where goodness is smothered and villainy thrives. . . . I was completely riveted.”—The Boston Globe
“A dense and satisfying novel of crime and retribution . . . [Landay has] been touted as the natural successor to George V. Higgins.”—The Independent
“A gripping, atmospheric saga.”—The Wall Street Journal
“An impressive and satisfying performance.”—The Washington Post
“Smart and surprising.”—Esquire

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Troubled cops, revenge-hungry mob bosses, dead women--these are the things that make life interesting.... [The Strangler has] plenty of violence, suspense and family intrigue.”—Esquire.com

“Landay movingly explores the bonds of family and basic questions of honesty and loyalty.... The emphasis remains on such themes as crime and punishment, love and honor, truth and justice.”—Publishers Weekly

“Complex.... This character-driven novel ...[unfolds] against the backdrop of the oppressive atmosphere of 1963 Boston. People are reeling from the assassination of JFK and the still-on-the-loose Boston Strangler.”—USA Today

“Landay has a marvelous ear for dialogue and for relationship complexities, smartly emphasizing the impact of crime instead of on the crimes in particular.”—Baltimore Sun

“Mr. Landay combines a fictional investigation of the Strangler's killings with a chronicle of three brothers.... The result is a gripping, atmospheric saga in which the official version of many matters (both criminal and civil) bears little resemblance to the truth.”–Wall Street Journal

Patrick Anderson
This is, finally, genre fiction, but of a high order. In the end, one of the brothers must perform some Rambo-style heroics to put things right, and a dying man must stay alive just long enough to gasp out a much-needed confession. Because Landay is writing about crime in working-class Boston, some reviewers have compared him to Dennis Lehane. That calls for clarification. The Strangler is superior to Lehane's early Kenzie-Gennaro novels, but it does not equal the rich prose and intense characterization of his Mystic River. Still, it's an impressive and satisfying performance, and Landay is a writer to watch.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Set in Boston in 1963, Landay's engrossing crime novel is less about the titular strangler than the three Irish-American Daley brothers: Ricky, a thief; Michael, a lawyer; and Joe, a bent cop. A year earlier, the Daleys' father, also a cop, was fatally shot on the job, and the killer has never been caught. The father's partner on the force, Brendan Conroy, has insinuated himself into the family to the point that he's now sleeping with the brothers' mother, Margaret, and is a permanent fixture at Sunday dinner, much to the disgust of Michael and Ricky. Landay (Mission Flats) movingly explores the bonds of family and basic questions of honesty and loyalty. While the novel suggests another killer than the historical Boston Strangler, the emphasis remains on such themes as crime and punishment, love and honor, truth and justice. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In 1963, when Boston is jolted by the Kennedy assassination, the city is already on edge from the murders attributed to the Boston Strangler. Albert DeSalvo confesses, but the police have misgivings. The three sons of murdered detective Joe Daley alternate as protagonists in this suspenseful tale, which mingles real characters with fictional ones. Joe Daley Jr., assigned to the case, is a cop plagued by gambling debts and increasing mob ties. Brother Michael, also on the case, is an assistant district attorney obsessed with his father's death and the possible involvement of his partner. And youngest brother Rickey is a cat burglar whose girlfriend has just been strangled. Landay makes good use of his own experience as a prosecutor, but the real tension is in the moral ambiguities. Framed by the larger story of the Strangler, the inner tale masterfully portrays the insidiousness of greed, even within the Daley family. Good may triumph, but not at all clearly, and the many twists are truly shocking in the hands of this masterly plotter, whose first novel, Mission Flats, was highly praised. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ10/1/06; Brian McGrory's forthcoming Strangled(Atria, Feb. 2007) also takes a look at the Boston Strangler case.—Ed.]
—Roland Person
Kirkus Reviews
Irish grief implodes in 1963 Boston. The Daley boys dislike their father Joe Senior's ex-partner, Brendan Conroy, who's moved in on their mother within a year of their father's death on the job. Is there a reason Brendan let Joe walk first down an alley into an ambush? How come the perp has never been found? That's just the beginning of the Daley troubles. Joe Jr., a cop like his dad, has so much gambling debt that he's forced to become a bagman for Vinny "The Animal" Gargano. Ricky, an upscale burglar, has drawn the ire of racketeer Capobianco by heisting diamonds from a swell who's under his protection. And Michael, a functionary in the Attorney General's Eminent Domain Division, has antagonized his boss by insisting that Albert DeSalvo, who's confessed to being the Strangler who throttled 13 women, is just a publicity-seeking nut case. Even when Ricky's reporter girlfriend Amy is murdered, with all the earmarks of a Strangler killing even though DeSalvo's been in lockup, the A.G. still swears he did it, prompting Michael to investigate matters further. Coming up: more dead cops, more battles among crooks and a Strangler-like murder on the other side of the country. In between a slow start and a coda too cute, Landay (Mission Flats, 2003) shows a truly sizzling Boston.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
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5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Strangler

By William Landay

Delacorte Press

Copyright © 2007 William Landay
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0385336152

Chapter One

Ricky Daley

In the subway: twenty swaying grief-stunned faces. A man insensible of his own leg pistoning up and down, tapping tat-tat-tat-tat-tat on the floor. At Boylston Street the track curved, the steel wheels shrieked against the rails, and the lights flickered off. Passengers let their eyes close, like a congregation beginning a silent prayer. When the lights came on again and their eyes opened, Ricky Daley was watching them.

At Park Street station, Ricky jogged up the stairs to the street, into a stagnant crowd. Offices had closed early, creating an early rush hour, but there was nowhere to go. The news was everywhere, still sensational though everyone had already heard it. Newsboys squawked "Extra!" and "Read it hee-yuh!" and "Exclusive!" They lingered on the hissing alien word "Ass-sass-inated!" Over on Tremont Street, crowds clumped against parked cars to listen to the news on WBZ; they bowed their heads toward the car radios. But there was no real news, no one knew anything, so eventually they turned away, they loitered on the sidewalk, and shambled in and out of the Common. It was midafternoon, three hours or so after–after President Kennedy first slapped at his neck as if he'd been stung by a bee–three hours after but the concussed mood was not dissipating. It was deepening, and more and more the stupor was infusedwith anxiety: What was next? From what direction would the attack come? How in the hell would they all get through this?

Ricky strolled right through them, working his way west. It was quieter in the Common, away from the street. No one seemed to be speaking. No one knew what to say. In the quiet he could make out the murmur of the city, distant engines and car horns and cops' whistles. He wore a gray overcoat and an itchy hundred-and-twenty-five-dollar suit. His shoes, new black brogans, made squinching sounds when he walked. He had tried to soften them by wearing them around his apartment, but they still pinched across the top of his feet. He had succeeded, at least, in dulling the gloss of the leather by rubbing it with saliva. The shoes should look polished but not new. New shoes might draw attention.

By the Frog Pond, a woman on a slatted park bench held a handkerchief to her mouth, balled up in her fist. Her eyes were watery. Ricky stopped to offer her the stiff new handkerchief tri-folded in his jacket pocket.

"Here," he said.

"I'm alright."

"Go on, I don't use them. It's just for show."

Ricky gazed up, granting her the privacy to mop her nose.

"Who would do such a thing?" The woman sniffled.

Ricky looked down again, and he detected a shy grin at the corners of her mouth. Smile, he thought. Go on.

"Who would do this?"

Go ahead and smile. Because who could deny there was a little secret pleasure in it? Kennedy was dead, but they had never felt quite so alive. All these nine-to-five suckers, all the secretaries and waitresses and Edison men–it was as if they had all been drowsing for years only to snap awake, here, together, inside this Great Day. Ricky thought that, if he wanted to, he could explore this girl for information (where did she work? did she have a key? was there an opportunity there?). She was available. Probably she felt a little intoxicated by this feeling of nowness. Until today, she had never felt so thrillingly present in each moment. It was a limitation of human consciousness: We live only in the future and past, we cannot perceive now. Now occupies no space, a hypothetical gap between future and past. Only an exceptional few could feel now, athletes and jazzmen and, yes, thieves like Ricky Daley, and even for them the sensation was fleeting, limited to the instant of creative action. Cousy knew the feeling; Miles Davis, too. The boundless improvisational moment. Today this girl was experiencing it, and she wanted to share the experience even with a stranger. Well, Ricky figured, it made sense–Kennedy's murder was exciting. It was a good day to work.

"Castro," she decided. "That's all I can think, is Castro."


"I messed up your handkerchief. I'm sorry. Must be expensive."

"It's okay. I stole it."

"You . . . ? Oh." She smiled, appraising him. "You're very nice. What's your name?"

"It's a long story."

He left her there. He walked on through the Public Garden. His breath made little clouds in the cold.

At Arlington Street, the doors to the church were propped open. The interior was warm and eggshell white. Through the open doors, Ricky could see an organist, a young man with flushed cheeks and a lick of blond hair that flopped in his eyes until he flipped it back with a toss of his head like a horse. The young man played in a sort of rapture. His eyes were shut, his torso swayed expressively.

Ricky walked on, west through the Back Bay, in a series of zigs and zags. On the residential side streets, he turned each corner, stopped, and looked back for a good long while. He hadn't noticed any tails, but you never knew. Even on a day like this, with everyone smashed by the news, cops included, it was important to maintain your technique.

At the Copley Plaza Hotel, a doorman in a long overcoat with gold braiding and epaulettes held the door. "Good afternoon, sir."

"Afternoon." Ricky took care to glance at the man only for an instant.

He moved quickly through the lobby, but not too quickly. Purposeful, proprietary, calibrating his movements to the room. He had a fingerman at the front desk, who gave Ricky a nod.

On the house phone he dialed room 404. No answer.

He sauntered into the Oak Room to wait at the bar for fifteen minutes, to be sure. A guest might go back up to his room for a forgotten item in the first few minutes after walking out, but he almost never returned once he'd been out for a quarter hour or more. Ricky made a point of checking his coat and tipping the girl a quarter. At the bar he ordered a highball and settled in. Rather than gawk at the luxurious room with its carved plaster ceiling and heavy furniture, he watched the door. He folded his arms across his chest, straining his suit jacket, because he'd noticed that rich people were comfortable in their expensive clothes. They wore a good suit as if it were an old sweater. They didn't care.

After a half hour of this business, pleased with the way he'd blended into the herd (no one, not even the bartender, would remember him later), he called room 404 again on the house phone and again got no answer. He drained his highball and in a tipsy voice he told the bartender an old joke–about the giraffe who walks into a bar and announces, "The highballs are on me"–before leaving. The bartender's face puckered: Didn't this jackass know Kennedy was dead?

Elevator to the fourth floor.

At room 404 he gave a brushy knock, then took a key from his pocket and let himself in.

He checked the room. Empty.

Back to the door. Gloves on. A glance up and down the hallway. He took a paper clip from his pocket, broke an inch of wire from it, slid the wire into the keyhole to plug it, then closed the door.

Checked the dresser. Checked the closets. He worked quickly but without noise and without leaving a mess. Found what he was looking for duct-taped to the inside of the toilet tank (clever prick): a yellow silk jewelry bag.

Ricky emptied the bag onto the bed. Loose diamonds. Some small jewelry pieces. Packets of hundred-dollar bills, banded. He separated out some of the jewelry, the gold plate, the pieces too bulky to conceal. That left a glassy heap. There might have been a half million dollars mounded up there. A cool little cone of diamonds.

The corners of Ricky's mouth tried to curl up into the tiniest unprofessional smirk, which he smothered.


Excerpted from The Strangler by William Landay Copyright © 2007 by William Landay. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

William Landay is the author of the New York Times bestseller Defending Jacob; The Strangler, a Los Angeles Times Favorite Crime Book of the Year; and Mission Flats, winner of the Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for Best First Crime Novel and a Barry Award nominee. A former district attorney who holds degrees from Yale and Boston College Law School, Landay lives in Boston, where he is at work on his next novel of suspense.

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Strangler 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 59 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1962 Boston, someone shoots and kills Irish-American police officer Joe Daley, Sr. in an alley while he is on duty. His three sons, Joe the cop, Ricky the thief, and Michael the lawyer grieve the loss of the family patriarch while the widow, their mother Margaret, did her grieving gig for a year and now lives with the late cop¿s partner, Brendan Conroy. --- Her offspring detest Brendan and are angry with their mother for sleeping with the person they hold culpable in their dad¿s death as they wonder if he set up Joe to walk point into an ambush and why a cop killer has not been caught. However the three sons have their own issues to contend with. To pay off his enormous gambling debt to the mob Joe Jr., works for Vinny 'The Animal' Gargano. Gangster Capobianco wants Rickey beaten to a pulp for stealing diamonds from someone who pays the hooligan for protection. Michael, who works in Eminent Domain Division of the Attorney General's Office insists that Albert DeSalvo is not the Strangler, but instead just a lunatic seeking fifteen minutes of fame. When Ricky's girlfriend Amy is murdered with the Strangler¿ MO while DeSalvo is a guest of the state, the Attorney General claims he did the crime anyway Michael with the help of his siblings investigates the latest homicide. --- Using the Boston Strangler as a key link and reference point, William Landay provides a fascinating look at family bonds cemented by an odd form of honor and even stranger type of justice. The tale also implies that DeSalvo was not the Strangler, but Mr. Landay employs his theory more as an aside in support of his overall theme of unity during a crisis. Suspense thriller fans will appreciate this fine historical thriller. --- Harriet Klausner
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
The early 1960s were tumultuous times in this country - our President was assassinated and the City of Boston, often thought of as a cultural and historic mecca, was riddled with fear. Eleven women had been murdered, some of them also raped by a man who earned the sobriquet Boston Strangler. Police were stymied, and citizens in an uproar. There was a man, Albert DeSalvo, who confessed to the murders. He had able defense - F. Lee Bailey. Following a few rounds of legal maneuvering DeSalvo was given life for the rapes. Later, he would be killed in prison. There were and are many who do not believe he was the Boston Strangler. These events are the launching pad for William Landay's mesmerizing second novel, The Strangler. We meet the Daleys, an Irish cop family if there ever was one. Daley the elder was a policeman killed in the line of duty. His three sons are a complex trio. Joe, the eldest, is a cop with problems - $20,000 worth of them. He's an inveterate gambler and soon finds himself so far in debt to the mob that there seems no way out. Middle son Michael is a lawyer via Harvard who works for an attorney general with aspirations. Michael who is assigned to the Strangler case is described by his mother as ' ....her most finely calibrated son, the quickest to take offense and the slowest to forgive'. Youngest son Ricky? He's very accomplished........at stealing jewels. There you have them save for their widowed mother who is being courted by their late father's best friend. At this point in time DeSalvo is imprisoned but there are still many questions about the case. Then another woman, a friend of the Daley's, is murdered in the Strangler manner. Landay's novel has it all - steam roller suspense, compelling dialogue, and a plot propelled by actual events. It's a sure winner! - Gail Cooke
pheldmin More than 1 year ago
Landay's writing style is unique. The reader is forced to speculate on a situational outcome only to be surprised with the truth of the event in the next few pages. This book is right up there with Defending Jacob. Both, an excellent read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It kept me reading it til I finshed the book I loved it, this author is great!!!
cbtMA More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Fun to read about Boston neighborhoods you are familiar with. Held my interest and loved the twist at the end.
lippp More than 1 year ago
Interesting enough.  Found the writing style perhaps a little too expository when a more lean narrative would have  moved the  story along. Not sure I believed in the characters.  They seemed not to ring true.  More stereotypical characters you see in films rather than in real life.   Defending Jacob, Landay's recent best seller, is a more compelling and satisfying read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read his last book, Defending Jacob, before this book. While this was a good read, I think I had high expectations based on the greatness of Jacob. Still a good book and would recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is great.the book is based of a true story and it should be made into movie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't finish reading this book, even though I was down to less than 50 pages. I kept trying but finally gave up. I did'nt care about the characters. This book started out very confusing and took too long to get anywhere. The story line was not believable. I would't recommend it to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoying this author
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good easy read
SlapShot62 More than 1 year ago
I've read over some of the reviews for Landay's book and see they often are at one extreme or the other - people love it and other readers hate it. I don't typically walk away from a book without a strong feeling either way, but I do with this one. It is well written and well told; it also has some good twists and plot developments. Overall, though, it seemed to be lacking "something" - be it a strong overall plot, a better ending, deeper characters - "something" just seemed missing all the way through. This was particularly true for the final third of the book. I was enjoying it overall until then, but suddenly reached a point where I was just trying to read it quickly to get finished. Tough one to recommend for you to read or avoid. Sorry!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this bc i liked defending jacob so much, but this was aweful. It was disconnected, several story lines with unrealistic relevance to eachother. It didn't have the suspernse it could have if he stuck with the strangler line. Instead he did this familky angle thgat wasn't necessary or a help to the story. Don't buy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Certainly not in the same league as Defending Jacob, his most recent book. There was a fuzz line between fiction and nonfiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Slow moving, boring, and highly predictable. Hard to like after reading Preston and Childs, James Rollins, or Jeffrey Deaver.
NewEnglanderJC More than 1 year ago
I loved Defending Jacob and thought I would give the author another try, but this book was so disappointing. In fact after about 200 pages in I could not stay with it and stopped reading it. Just could not hold my interest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading "Defending Jacob", I expected much more. This story was disjointed and, frankly , boring. It took me 3 weeks to get through it, simply because I could not stay interested. Unfortunately , I cannot quit reading a book once I've started it. I so wanted to like this book, but it just never happened. I'll give the author another shot, only because the first book I read was amazing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book. Could not put it down.
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