May 31, 1883, 3:55 p.m. Twenty thousand men, women, and children, their faces shining in the late afternoon sun, are strolling the Eighth Wonder of the World. The Brooklyn Bridge is open just a week, its promenade a magnet for the teeming masses of New York and Brooklyn. An engineering marvel of transcending beauty, the bridge is simply breathtaking.
In precisely five minutes, it will fall.
Seven desperate men, former Confederate soldiers turned saboteurs, have labored for years to destroy the bridge, which they saw as a symbol of hated Yankee supremacy.
Sergeant Detective Tom Braddock is one step behind the conspirators. Working through a series of murderous dead-ends, Braddock has dogged the seven men from the cables of the bridge to the shadowy alleys of the Lower East Side and the back streets of Richmond, Virginia. Slowly, he has slowly drawn closer to the unthinkable truth, a truth that none can accept...
About the Author
Richard E. Crabbe has a 20-year career in advertising sales with Advance Publications, The New York Post, Times Mirror, and currently Time Warner. Suspension was penned substantially on the Staten Island ferry, commuting to Manhattan. He is a lifelong resident of Staten Island, where his wife Kim and three daughters, Chelsea, Amanda, and Rebecca have him happily outnumbered.
Read an Excerpt
Sleep sweetly in your humble graves, Sleep martyrs of a fallen cause; Though yet no marble column craves The pilgrim here to pause.
— HENRY TIMROD
A silvery sliver of moon hung over the East River, its light swallowed by the choppy black waters. The tide was racing out. The river tugged at ships as they lay at anchor along the shore. The black water folded in oily eddies and swirls around the granite base of the Great East River Bridge as if grudging its intrusion. The blocks of granite were square-cut, their edges not yet worn smooth. They were black below the high-water mark.
Sitting motionless in the cold March moonlight, three gulls sat perched on a cable of the bridge. Like gargoyles they seemed, formed in stone. The moon shone ghostly pale on still, gray feathers. Lost souls of the harbor, they huddled together in the dark, wing to wing. No lamplight burned to unhood the night. The bridge was not open yet. Construction equipment, piles of wood, coils of rope, stacks of steel beams and angle irons, barrels of bolts, nails, tar, cement, and a dozen other things littered the roadways. The smell of lumber, newly galvanized steel, fresh paint, and wet cement clung to the bridge. It was a good smell.
Suddenly the sound of metal on metal clattered through the night from somewhere toward the Brooklyn side, reverberating through the steel. Like a length of pipe dropped or thrown, it had a rolling, ringing, bell-like quality. The three gargoyle gulls came to life. Three heads swung in unison toward the sound. Six eyes gleamed in the dark. Wings shifted. A moment later footsteps could be heard pounding hard down the roadway. A shout in the dark and the sound of leather on wood marked the runner as he crossed the footbridge over the unfinished roadway. A few moments later a second set of feet clattered by. The gulls stirred nervously. One man passed below them, his labored lungs huffing. He didn't dare to look back. A moment later came a second man, cursing in gasps but running hard. The gulls took flight, their shrill screams piercing the silence above the river. The bridge was not safe tonight. The sounds of pursuit dwindled toward New York.
Two days later it was clear that Terrence Bucklin was dead; that much was certain. He lay in an alley behind Paddy's bar, number 64 Peck Slip — not a place one would want to be found dead. The body cooked in the early afternoon sun that lit the narrow space between the rough brick walls. The Fulton Fish Market was just a couple of blocks away but smelled closer. Dead man ... dead fish. Under the circumstances, Terrence was a very unattractive corpse. His mouth, set in just the hint of a grin, lent him the look of a man who had met his end with a lingering knowledge. Whatever that knowledge was, he took it with him.
Earlier that morning, at about eleven-thirty, one of Paddy's more religious patrons had come back into the bar after a visit to the alley. Joe Hamm, the barkeep, discouraged his customers from vomiting in the jakes, so the regulars knew to go out back if the drink started coming out the wrong end. The drunk had announced to all present that there was a corpse out back.
"Jaysus fookin' Christ! There's a corpse in the alley, Joe!"
The bar emptied. Nothing could empty a bar faster than a corpse. Hamm cursed his luck. After the drunk who found the body did his best double-time shuffle out the front door, Joe had gone back to see for himself what the fuss was about. Drunks saw all sorts of things. Joe had regular reports over the years of spirits, leprechauns, animals, and insects of various descriptions, especially spiders. On one occasion, the Prince of Darkness himself. Joe went to the alley expecting nothing more dramatic than a trick of the light. What he found was a hand and a leg sticking out from under a couple of packing crates from the chandlers next door. Hamm tossed the crates aside. He could see immediately that he wouldn't be pulling any more beers for this one. Joe stood for a moment, looking down at the body in morbid fascination. Maybe next time he'd pay more attention to what a drunk claimed he saw. He turned back toward the bar, dismissing the thought almost as soon as it came.
When Joe returned The bar was empty except for one man. That man had occupied the corner table at Paddy's for the last fifteen years. He hadn't left with the others. He had work to do, trying to finish the job that the rebels had started at Cold Harbor. He had left half his right leg and a sizable chunk of his left calf on the field in Virginia when a Confederate twelve-pounder came bounding through the line. Three years in and out of hospitals and the doctors had pronounced him as whole in body as they could make him. His spirit, however, was something else. Since then he had become a fixture at Paddy's. He was the sawdust on the floor and the smoke in the air and the smell of beer. Drinking an army pension was a slow death.
"Saw a cop pass down the street toward the docks a couple of minutes ago," the veteran observed laconically.
"Thanks, Bob. You've got a cold one comin' on the house when I get back."
"Hurry back, then." So Joe Hamm had gone in search of a cop. As he was leaving he couldn't escape the thought that he had really left two dead men in the bar.
Joe was not a particularly tall man so he went down the crowded cobblestone streets craning, bobbing, and hopping in an effort to see a cop over the multitude. He looked like a damn fool, he knew, with his beer-stained bar apron flapping. The thought of that body and all the business he was likely to lose because of it kept him hopping and craning past Front, and all the way to South Street, where he turned South toward the market. Joe came upon a young patrolman who was trying to supervise the untangling of two freight wagons, their steaming draft horses wide-eyed and straining. The cop was doing his official best to keep the teamsters from coming to blows and the wagons from crushing someone in their struggle to get their wheels unlocked. He waved and shouted to be heard over the cursing teamsters and the general clamor of South Street. From the look of things, he was having little luck at this. As Joe Hamm approached, one teamster was letting loose with a creative stream of curses and oaths. The driver on the other wagon was probably just as colorful, but he was cursing in Italian. Joe could pretty much get the gist from his hand gestures, which seemed to encompass the cop as well.
Hamm took all this in as he trotted up to the cop and clapped a hand on his shoulder.
"There's been a murder," he said breathlessly.
"Listen, don't bother me now. I've got a situation here," the cop snapped back.
Joe gave it another try "I don't think you heard me." He was annoyed that the cop wasn't paying attention. "I've got a dead man, a murdered man maybe, out behind my bar. He's in the alley behind Paddy's." That got the cop's attention.
"A dead man, you say? Paddy's? Where the hell is Paddy's?" asked the patrolman, looking around.
God, this kid was fresh out of the box, Joe thought. Everyone knew where Paddy's was.
"It's over on Peck Slip," he said patiently. "Right next door to the chandlers shop."
The young cop still had a blank, distracted look. The two teamsters were gathering steam.
"Stick it up your arse, ye goddamn dago," one shot at the other.
"Uppa you ass," the Italian sallied back in what was probably the sum of his English.
"Let's go then," the cop said absently.
"So who are you, and what's this about a body?" the cop asked.
"Name's Joe Hamm. Tend bar at Paddy's. One o' my regulars found him behind the bar."
"What do you mean, behind the bar?" the cop asked.
"Out back in the alley."
"Oh." The cop took a last look over his shoulder at the receding mess on South Street.
"Watch it," Joe said as he threw out a hand to stop the patrolman. He had almost walked out in front of a wagon loaded with barrels of salt fish. "You new on the force, or just new to the precinct?"
"New to the force. How'd you know?"
That didn't really take a detective to figure, Joe thought, but trying not to offend the kid, he said, "Well, you didn't know where Paddy's was. Haven't seen you around before neither. Where're you from?"
"Took the ferry there once," Joe said. "Nice ride. Never knew anybody that lived there though. What's your name, Officer?"
"Patrolman Jaffey. Elija's my given name. This the place?"
They stood in front of Paddy's, with its dying paint and its dusty windows. Jaffey looked up at the carved and painted wooden prizefighter hanging over the door and wondered if that was Paddy himself or just an appeal to the "fightin' Irish." Taking a deep breath, he dove into the shimmering gloom of Paddy's common room. He and Joe were walking deeper into the place, swirling sawdust in their wake, when from the corner table Bob the veteran said, "That's Terrence Bucklin out back."
That brought them both up short, turning. "Took a look while you was gone, Joe. Good man, Bucklin," Bob muttered almost to himself. "Worked on the bridge — mason, I think. Shared a beer with him once or twice ... Friendly fella. Damned shame."
Joe and Jaffey stood in the sawdust, and, for an instant, it seemed, they all bowed their heads for the good man who had been Terrence Bucklin.
A septic breath of air from the alley carried a reminder of why Joe and Jaffey were there. The patrolman didn't know quite what to expect. This was his first body, and he wanted to be professional and dispassionate about it. He could handle this, he told himself. He just had to concentrate on the job. He had an important job, and it was important that he do it right and ...
"Oh my Lord, oh my ..." Jaffey blurted when he got a good look at Bucklin. The patrolman's stomach twisted inside him. He took an involuntary half step back and croaked to Joe, "Go to the station house and get Sergeant Halpern. He's my watch sergeant. You know where it is, don't you?"
"Yeah, I know Sam too. I'll get him."
This was to be a day of firsts for Eli Jaffey. He had never been alone with a corpse before. He couldn't count his aunt and little sister who died of the typhoid three years ago. They weren't corpses, really, they were family. They had lain in the front parlor of their house on St. Mark's Place, with flowers in their hair and the smell of lilies floating like a fog bank. They weren't dead like this, lying twisted in an alley, filling with the gases of their own decay. This was different — no lilies, no candles, no satin pillows, just stink and flies.
Jaffey stood, staring down at the corpse, for what felt like an awfully long time. Slowly Eli began to feel that Terrence Bucklin could see with his dead, doll's eyes into his most private place, where he locked away his doubts and fears. And he seemed to say "Can you do this? Can you look me in the eye?"
Bucklin's eyes were not easy to look at. Jaffey didn't want to look at them, but felt compelled to nonetheless.
"It's the flies, isn't it?" the corpse said to him. "Come on, look me in the eye and see for yourself, if you can really wear that new uniform. May as well get it over with."
Jaffey looked long and with a will at the dead eyes of Terrence Bucklin. When Sergeant Halpern arrived a few minutes later, Jaffey was doubled over, retching up the last of his lunch. Halpern was about to say something unkind but remembered his reaction to his first bloated corpse, so held his tongue. He was annoyed but a little amused too, though he tried to keep it from the kid, hiding the ghost of a grin behind frowning eyes.
Jaffey had the shine and delicate green coloring of an underripe tomato. At least he had the good sense not to puke on the corpse, Halpern thought, although God knew he had seen that done in his time.
"Go on into Paddy's and get yourself something to wash the taste out," Sam said. "And see if you can get some statements from Joe Hamm and anybody left inside while you're at it. You're doin' nobody any good here, pukin' on your shoes."
Jaffey gave Sam Halpern a hangdog look as he wiped the remnants of lumpy lunch from his shoes with a bit of rag. A cop should never be seen with his lunch on his shoes, and young Jaffey did pride himself on his spotless uniform. Without a word, he turned toward the back of Paddy's. He was happy for something to do, and he fumbled for his notebook and pencil. He tried to think of all the questions a good cop should ask of witnesses to a crime, and it helped to take his mind off the corpse on the alley floor with that grin on his face and the flies in his eyes. Jaffey's eyes strayed back to the body, and for one awful moment he could have sworn that Terrence's glassy eyes followed him as he moved toward the door. He quickened his pace.
Jaffey turned into the back door of Paddy's that opened on a storage area and hallway. It was black as coal compared to the light in the alley. The black of the hallway congealed into something very solid and Jaffey bounced off it with a grunt, dropping his pad and pencil. In the instant it took for his eyes to adjust to the sudden lack of light, he realized that it was a man he had walked into. To his credit, he recovered his composure quickly and in his best official tone said, "You've got to keep this hallway clear, we're investigating a murder here. Now move back into the bar. I'd like to ask you a few questions."
An amused "Humph" came from the shadow that was the man's face. He made no move. Jaffey put his hand on the butt of the nightstick hanging at his waist.
"Move back, I said, and do it now! Don't be startin' any trouble," he told the big shadow, "just move back into the bar and be quick about it." Jaffey gripped his nightstick tighter with his right hand. With his left he poked two fingers hard into the man's chest in an effort to get him moving in the right direction. This seemed to have no effect. Jaffey was a little alarmed at that. Boozer or not, this fellow just didn't have any give to him. The man's features were materializing out of the gloom as Jaffey's eyes became fully accustomed to the light. The stranger started to say something and made a move to get past the patrolman.
This would never do, Jaffey thought. He couldn't let his sergeant see him get pushed around. He drew his nightstick. In his hurry he missed what the shadow-man said. Jaffey thought a crack across the knees would set his man to rights. It was the last thing he thought.
"Sorry about your boy there, Sam. Hope I didn't do any permanent damage," Tom Braddock said without appearing to mean it.
"Jesus, Tommy, did you have to do that? It's hard enough gettin' the boys broken in without you bustin' em up," Sam grumbled as he bent over the prostrate patrolman.
"He was going to crack my kneecaps," Tom said defensively. "I can't abide a pup like him goin' off half cocked, thinkin' the world has to jump 'cause he's got new brass."
"Seems to me I recall you bein' pretty green when you started too." Sam hooked a hand under Jaffey's arm. "Here, help me get him up." Sam and Tom leaned Jaffey against a barrel.
"Sam, we weren't green when we started on the force. Ignorant maybe, but not green. We were green back in '62 when we enlisted," Tom said. "But when we started here that had rubbed clean off."
There was a lot of truth in that. When the war ended and they joined the force, they were a well-seasoned pair.
"Sure, you're right, I guess, but we still didn't know a damn thing about police work, as I recall," Sam muttered.
"There's some that say you still don't, Sammy," Tom said with a grin.
"Screw you, Braddock." Sam grinned back.
Halpern and Braddock stood over Jaffey as he came around. Jaffey looked up from his seat against the pickle barrel where the two had propped him. If he thought Braddock looked big before, he looked positively immense from the floor. Two sets of hands sky-hooked him onto his feet, and he saw at once the reason why the big man had not backed down when Jaffey had run into him. Braddock wore the shield of a sergeant detective. In the dark of the hallway, Jaffey hadn't noticed it, and with Tom in plain clothes ...
"Shit," he mumbled to himself. He had botched the job again. But that wasn't what was important to him.
"How the hell did you do that?" Jaffey asked with a mixture of surprise and respect as he rubbed the base of his neck. "Feel like I was poleaxed."
Braddock was surprised. He expected indignance, or bravado, or maybe even a bit of a fight from this kid with the fresh brass. A commendable swallowing of pride, Tom figured. The kid was doing his best to recognize his mistakes. Tom wasn't so sure that if the tables were turned, he'd have the same humility. Perhaps he'd misjudged Jaffey just as quickly as Jaffey had misjudged him.
Excerpted from "Suspension"
Copyright © 2000 Richard E. Crabbe.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Table of Contents
Reading Group Guide
1. The Brooklyn Bridge occupies a central role in Suspension. As the most ambitious and monumental construction project of its day, it has an impact on every character in the book. Each is touched in different ways and sees different things when they look at the awesome, soaring span sweeping across the East River. How are the characters affected? How does each perceive it, and how are those perceptions colored by personal experience or motive?
2. Tom Braddock is an unusual man in many ways. His perceptions of tenement life, his relations with the Chinese on the Lower East Side, and his relationship with Mary are all contrary to the norms of the late nineteenth century. What does this say about Tom's character? Is he rejecting the norms for his own purposes or does he just follow his instincts? What does this illustrate about his value systems and how do those beliefs differ from the norms of the day?
3. The Civil War was the defining event of nineteenth century America. It deeply wounded the generation that fought it and forever altered the generations that came after. Very much like the Brooklyn Bridge, the war speaks to many of the characters in Suspension, particularly Tom and Thaddeus. In what ways have their experiences in the war influenced their lives? How have they been altered and in what ways are their motivations influenced by their war years?
4. Two of the conspirators, Lincoln and Sullivan, are ultimately affected by their work on the bridge in ways they do not anticipate. How do their perceptions change? Why do they change at all? What conflicts do those changes pose for Lincoln and Sullivan and how are they resolved?
5. Jumbo the elephant plays a critical role in Suspension. He is one of the keys to bringing Mike Bucklin and Tom Braddock closer together and ultimately solving the puzzle of the conspiracy. In a deeper sense, Jumbo is also a metaphorical character. How does Jumbo fulfill this role?
6. Emily Roebling was a remarkable woman. Her strength of character, her determination, and her drive to see the Brooklyn Bridge completed under her husband's direction are well documented. In what ways was she unusual for her time? How was she like Tom Braddock? What attributes do they share and how do those attributes affect 61 their attraction to each other?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A suspenseful historical fiction novel that is difficult to put down! Filled with murder, love, violence, history, and conspiracy, "Suspension" is a must-read. Crabbe does not disappoint.
This book was an enjoyable read - I picked it up as a beach book on vacation and it was reasonably engaging. The characters are likeable and compelling, and there's enough of a mix of good and bad things happen so that it's not sappy or syrupy.This book, like TV shows such as "Criminal Minds," doesn't leave the bad act to suspense - we learn about it in the beginning, and the motives and intent of the bad guys are clear from the start. Normally, I prefer this kind of book less than the other, where you uncover the plots as you read; and I think this may be the main reason I disagreed with comparisons to Caleb Carr's "Alienist." Despite this, I found myself eagerly turning pages in the latter half, curious to see what would happen and how things would turn out.This is not a great novel, nor revolutionary. But it's enjoyable, and a fun read, especially for those who appreciate tales of New York gone by.
Nice historical read..slow at times but OK
I really enjoyed Suspension and very pleased to see it on Nook. I read it when it first came out and since I got my Nook I have been anxiously awaiting the Nook version. I love the history of the period and the bridge. I learned so much about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and tying the killer suspense story to it was perfect. The great characters....some very strong, others very weak and everything in between made this a very believable plot.....it could have happened just as written. If you're an expert on post-civil war America, New York or the Brooklyn Bridge I'm sure you might find something wrong with facts, etc... If so, I don't care to hear about it.....I loved the book and it kept me reading. That's what a good thriller and a good story should do. Thanks to Richard Edward Crabbe for this great story (by the way I love the sequel "The Empire of Shadows" as well).
In the Spring of 1883 Colonel Washington Roebling, with the help of his wife Emily, sets out to complete the world's largest suspension bridge that would span across the vast expanse of New York's East River. What Roebling does not know is that a rogue group of former Confederate soldiers hold him personally responsible for a horrible incident that happened years ago on the battlefields of Gettysburg, and have labored for years to destroy his bridge. When one of Roebling's workers is found dead in a dingy alley, a maverick detective named Tom Braddock is assigned to the case. Tom is a good cop with a heart of gold, but his past is not exactly stellar. Not only does he have to deal with the pressures of leading an unsolved murder investigation, but he must also contend with the saboteurs who are closer than ever to implementing their plans, officials within his own department who want to bury him in a life of corruption, and Mike, the dead man's son who literally holds the key to solving this case. If Tom can manage to stay alive, he might be able to save the bridge, and possibly build a life with Mary, a beautiful, but unusual woman who keeps him both happy and sane. From the riveting opening 'nightmare' sequence to the final pages of mass hysteria that take place during the bridge's first opening days, Richard Crabbe does a tremendous job of transporting you into 19th century New York with a ghastly tale of murder and the building of the Brooklyn Bridge as his backdrop. This is a top notch historical thriller that involves terrorism, police corruption, and bone-chilling suspense. It also includes a few surprises for Civil War buffs and those of us who never really appreciated the beauty of the Brooklyn Bridge. Caleb Carr fans will eat this one up and savor every morsel. Masterfully done.
A vivid and exciting mystery folded into the realities of the post civil war era. A truly compelling and first class book that will become required reading for history buffs and for those who love a great mystery. Captain Coffin was my favorite character....
I usually try to stay away from heavier reading during the school year, but this cleverly written historical fiction novel is both entertaining and insightful into the minds and hearts of the nineteenth century common New Yorker. I am turning the pages quickly, thoroughly enjoying the complex and believable characters, exciting plot, and history, which is acurate.
I've never walked across the Brooklyn Bridge before .. but now I will find the time. I always thought I had a special appreciation for the achievement that this bridge represents ... but now I see it in a very different light. I never gave much thought to life in 19th century New York City .. but now I do. This book changed the way I see these things and that's only one reason to recommend it. It is a compelling story and riveting mystery that brings the people and times to life.