Who doesn’t love an irreverent badass who admits he’s a screw-up? Duck Darley is the most damaged anti-hero you’d never want to meet in a dark corner of New York City. In Casey Barrett’s The Tower of Songs: A Duck Darley Novel (Kensington) East meets West when a Chinese power deal goes terribly wrong. A government is watching, but whose?

A former Olympic athlete and rich kid turned poor by his father’s failed Ponzi scheme, Duck finished a 13-month stint at Riker’s for dealing weed. He’s a junkie and an alcoholic, but he’s trying to kick his bad habits—he’s on the “weed-only wagon” with a few Xanax to smooth the rough edges. A buzz-free life is just not an option.

Duck admits he’s damaged, even diagnosed with PTSD, and knows his former fame in The Post as “Death Darley” precedes him. But he’s given up alcohol—for now at least—so his (unlicensed) private investigations business is looking up. His role of Mistress Dispeller—helping rich women scare away their husbands’ mistresses—has been on the upswing. But Duck is shocked when seventeen-year-old Layla Soto, daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the world, hires him to find her missing father, hedge fund manager Danny Soto.

He doesn’t want to take the case—he knows the rich get away with their sins. And how is he supposed to find a missing billionaire? But when Layla compares her dysfunctional family to his, he admits he is an expert on “fucked-up-ness,” with his dad in Federal prison and his mother long dead from drowning herself in a bathtub, and can’t resist.

Not only will he get 50 grand for a fee, but the case gives Duck a good reason to recruit his former unofficial partner, Cassandra Kimball, dominatrix extraordinaire, to bring finesse and a sharp edge to the investigation.

Barrett’s intimate knowledge of New York City makes the steaming summer streets of Manhattan come to life. Together, Duck and Cass follow clues all over New York—from the luxury towers on Billionaires’ Row on 57th to storefront apartments on Canal Street in Chinatown, up to Tudor castles on Billionaires’ Beach in Southampton, with stops in Brooklyn, Queens, the East Village, and TriBeCa in between. Duck and Cass race to solve who’s responsible for the kidnapping and why people are dying in their wake.

Barrett shows readers what can happen when a self-proclaimed loser with “sins and secrets” tries not to drown in the riptides of Manhattan. Anyone can write a perfect hero, but Barrett makes us cheer for Duck’s humanity as he works to get through each day and maybe make cosmic amends while he’s at it.

What’s not to love about a not-quite-so-super-hero flawed like the rest of us, just struggling to get through? This thriller with a refreshing line-up of unlikely champions skirting the fringes of morality and darkness as they maneuver the underbelly of Manhattan is more fun than the temptations they’re trying to leave behind.

The Tower of Songs will be available on August 27, 2019.

Visit Casey’s BookTrib Author Profile page.

 

ABOUT CASEY BARRETT

Casey Barrett is a Canadian Olympian and the co-founder and co-CEO of Imagine Swimming, New York City’s largest learn-to-swim school. He has won three Emmy awards and one Peabody award for his work on NBC’s broadcasts of the Olympic Games. He was the author of the popular swimming blog, Cap & Goggles, and was a regular contributor to the Village Voice. His work has also appeared in GQ, Rolling Stone, and Swimming World magazine.