After a Queens man witnesses his new friend committing murder, he faces a possible frame-up in Pollack’s debut thriller.
Tommy Sullivan avoids a severe beating from a couple of punks, thanks to Troyer Savage stepping in. Tommy hopes that Troyer can give him some pointers on fighting—and also some advice on picking up women. When he trails Troyer to an alley to watch him make his move on a female bartender named Jamie, he instead watches him cut her throat, and Tommy is left to clean up the crime scene. Tommy, fearing that cops will tie him to the murder, escapes to Cape May, New Jersey, where he spent summers as a child. There he reconnects with Aurora, the first girl he ever kissed. Troyer soon shows up, however, and before long there’s another dead body, and Aurora vanishes without a trace. Cops, meanwhile, suspect that Tommy is a killer, and are slowly closing in. Pollack tells about half the story from Tommy’s first-person point-of-view, and the rest in third-person, centered mostly on the police investigation. When Tommy admits to taking an experimental drug for recurrent migraines and mentions having blackouts, readers will begin to question Tommy’s account. Troyer, meanwhile, is a sublimely eccentric villain: He feigns an Australian lilt with Jamie and uses it throughout the story, claiming it’s genuine; and he makes shocking, surprise appearances, even turning up in the trunk of Tommy’s car. Readers will likely anticipate the outcome very early on, and the author seems to know this, but he subverts premature speculation by winding the story through strange DNA and fingerprint results and the discovery of unknown corpses, and by making Troyer particularly elusive. The book’s final act delves into Tommy’s troubled childhood as well as his experimental medication. This last section is engaging and comprehensibly brings the story to a close, but it’s also missing much of the black humor from the previous pages.
The ending, however, is a definite winner.
A self-aware psychological thriller that has great fun playing with reader expectations.
Reviewed by Eric Anderson
August 26, 2014
Like a police drama, this fast-paced book contains enough surprises to make it difficult to put down.
Howard K. Pollack draws from his experience as an attorney to create a winding and complicated story of a young man’s frantic attempt to clear his name and overcome his demons. Everywhere That Tommy Goes is a fast-paced thriller that is full of surprises until the final page.
Since childhood, Tommy Sullivan has been crippled with migraine headaches that leave him unable to function and even lead to blackouts. After years of suffering, he has finally found an experimental drug that takes the pain away like nothing else. Just as his life is beginning to stabilize, he finds himself on the losing side of a bar fight and is saved at the last minute by the charismatic Troyer Savage, whose good looks and martial arts skills make him everything Tommy wishes he could be. Tommy soon realizes that his new friend is not what he seems, and Troyer’s strange behavior makes Tommy question his sanity. After one too many drinks together, Tommy is left with blood on his hands and nowhere to turn. The more time he spends with Troyer, the deeper he falls into a rabbit hole of terrible crimes and haunting memories from a forgotten past.
Extensive exposition gives away some key elements too early. However, this is made up for by an interesting and complicated plot that weaves together a broad history and several story threads, from Tommy’s first kiss to a corrupt doctor with little regard for his patients. The short chapters, some little more than a paragraph in length, echo the staccato cuts of TV police dramas but also cause the narrative to feel choppy and fragmented.
Tommy is a complicated and rich character whose realism carries a story that is otherwise populated by some flat supporting roles. The police investigators, lawyers, and Tommy’s friend Aurora are used to propel the narrative, but little time is given to fleshing out their motivations and history to give them real depth. Aurora in particular seems too trusting and too willing to throw away her life for a man she hasn’t seen in twenty years. The plot itself is original, though it contains several clichés, including references to the TV series CSI and the fantastical police investigation techniques it is known for.
Despite these criticisms, the book is well written with an approachable style and enough surprises to make it difficult to put down. Everywhere That Tommy Goes is recommended for anyone who loves being pulled along by a story as creepy as it is engaging.
a novel by Howard K. Pollack