A stylish and propulsive novel set in 1950s America In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the juvenile work farm where he has just served fifteen months for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett's intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother, Billy, and head to California where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden's car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett's future, one that will take them all on a fateful journey in the opposite direction-to the City of New York.
Ten years after serving time at Rikers Island for assault, Joe King Oliver, an ex-NYPD investigator working as a private detective, receives a note from a woman who admits she was paid to frame him, compelling him to find out who on the police force wanted him out. He also agrees to help a radical black journalist accused of killing two on-duty police officers who had been abusing their badges to traffic in drugs and prostitutes in the city's poorest neighborhoods. The two cases intertwine, exposing a pattern of corruption and brutality wielded against black men, women, and children whose lives the law detroyed.