Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Colson Whitehead follows the events of his gripping Harlem Shuffle with Crook Manifesto, returning to Harlem in 1971, four years after Ray Carney's "criminal retirement." No more fencing for Carney. That is, until his daughter wants to see the Jackson 5 in concert, and Carney calls on an old police contact named Munson to help secure tickets: Munson gets on the line, "[a]nd like that, in the time WALK turns to DONT WALK, Carney was out of retirement."
Whitehead takes readers into the heart of bankrupt Manhattan with Carney as their guide: "You knew the city was going to hell if the Upper East Side was starting to look like crap, too," he thinks. The gallows humor mirrors the mood of New Yorkers who can't believe things could get worse, and then do. The taut prose echoes the tightrope Whitehead's characters walk in a desperate, crime-ridden, and tension-filled city, with only humor and Carney's sense of humanity to leaven the proceedings.