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Amy was once a party girl, but she now lives a lonely life, helping the house-bound to receive communion in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn. She stops in at one of the apartments on her route, where Mrs. Epifanio, the elderly woman who lives there, says she hasn’t seen her usual caretaker, Diane, in a few days. Supposedly, Diane has the flu—or so Diane’s son Vincent Amy was once a party girl, but she now lives a lonely life, helping the house-bound to receive communion in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn. She stops in at one of the apartments on her route, where Mrs. Epifanio, the elderly woman who lives there, says she hasn’t seen her usual caretaker, Diane, in a few days. Supposedly, Diane has the flu—or so Diane’s son Vincent said when he first dropped by and vanished into Mrs. E’s bedroom to do no-one-knows-what. Amy’s brief interaction with Vincent in the apartment that day sets off warning bells, so she assures Mrs. E that she’ll find out what’s really going on with both him and his mother. She tails Vincent through Brooklyn, eventually following him and a mysterious man out of a local dive bar. At first, the men are only talking as they walk, but then, almost before Amy can register what has happened, Vincent is dead. For reasons she can’t quite understand, Amy finds herself captivated by both the crime she witnessed and the murderer himself. She doesn’t call the cops to report what she’s seen. Instead, she collects the murder weapon from the sidewalk and soon finds herself on the trail of a killer. Character-driven and evocative, The Lonely Witness brings Brooklyn to life in a way only a native can, and opens readers’ eyes to the harsh realities of crime and punishment on the city streets.


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Amy was once a party girl, but she now lives a lonely life, helping the house-bound to receive communion in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn. She stops in at one of the apartments on her route, where Mrs. Epifanio, the elderly woman who lives there, says she hasn’t seen her usual caretaker, Diane, in a few days. Supposedly, Diane has the flu—or so Diane’s son Vincent Amy was once a party girl, but she now lives a lonely life, helping the house-bound to receive communion in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn. She stops in at one of the apartments on her route, where Mrs. Epifanio, the elderly woman who lives there, says she hasn’t seen her usual caretaker, Diane, in a few days. Supposedly, Diane has the flu—or so Diane’s son Vincent said when he first dropped by and vanished into Mrs. E’s bedroom to do no-one-knows-what. Amy’s brief interaction with Vincent in the apartment that day sets off warning bells, so she assures Mrs. E that she’ll find out what’s really going on with both him and his mother. She tails Vincent through Brooklyn, eventually following him and a mysterious man out of a local dive bar. At first, the men are only talking as they walk, but then, almost before Amy can register what has happened, Vincent is dead. For reasons she can’t quite understand, Amy finds herself captivated by both the crime she witnessed and the murderer himself. She doesn’t call the cops to report what she’s seen. Instead, she collects the murder weapon from the sidewalk and soon finds herself on the trail of a killer. Character-driven and evocative, The Lonely Witness brings Brooklyn to life in a way only a native can, and opens readers’ eyes to the harsh realities of crime and punishment on the city streets.

30 review for The Lonely Witness

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kemper

    I received a free advance copy from NetGalley for review. I'm from Kansas, but I think I may have developed a New York accent after reading this book. Amy is a young lady living modestly in her Brooklyn neighborhood, but she used to be a hard partying Manhattan bartender. After her girlfriend dumped her Amy shed most of her once beloved vintage clothes and records and became a regular church goer who lives in a basement apartment. One of her volunteer jobs for the church is giving communion to eld I received a free advance copy from NetGalley for review. I'm from Kansas, but I think I may have developed a New York accent after reading this book. Amy is a young lady living modestly in her Brooklyn neighborhood, but she used to be a hard partying Manhattan bartender. After her girlfriend dumped her Amy shed most of her once beloved vintage clothes and records and became a regular church goer who lives in a basement apartment. One of her volunteer jobs for the church is giving communion to elderly shut-ins, and one woman that Amy visits complains that her usual caretaker hasn’t been around in days but instead sent her son, Vincent, instead. Vincent has been barging in with the key and going into the old woman’s bedroom even though she asked him not, too. When Vincent shows up Amy confronts him which makes him angry, but he leaves. Amy is worried that he might come back and that he may have have done something to his mother so she follows him around the neighborhood. Haunted by a homicide she witnessed as a teen that she was threatened into keeping quiet about, Amy continues to shadow Vincent until she witnesses a murder which triggers an odd reaction to it that kicks off a chain of events that involve several people. I’m surprised how much I liked this book considering that it’s loaded with one of my pet peeves, a plot that depends on the main character regularly acting like an idiot. However, that usually bugs me because too often it’s just a lazy way to make things happen in a thriller, but this is one of those books that is either a character drama with some crime in it or a crime novel driven by the character drama in it. (Six of one, half-a-dozen of another.) So it works here mainly because Amy is such an interesting and complex person. She knows she’s behaving irrationally at times, but she’s driven by both compulsions related to the old crime she witnessed as well as reexamining her life as she wonders who she really is. Adding to her confusion is the reappearance of the father who abandoned her as a child. The other strong point is just how thoroughly William Boyle develops the Brooklyn that Amy lives in. There’s such a strong sense of place here that the neighborhood comes to feel like another vivid character, and yet it’s realistic and not sentimental. It’s so well done that you can do Google Street View along with Amy’s movement and see many of the locations mentioned in the book and they look exactly as described. If you’re interested in a complex character study that uses a crime as a launching point then this fits the bill. Also, I didn’t realize this while reading but have since learned that this functions as a follow-up to Boyle’s Gravesend so now I’m adding that one to the to-read pile.

  2. 5 out of 5

    James Thane

    The protagonist is this novel is a young woman named Amy who lives in a tiny, dingy basement apartment in Brooklyn. Amy used to party hard, but after her lover breaks up with her, she retreats into a much different, much quieter, and much more lonely life. She now does volunteer work, principally for her church, and among other things, she delivers communion to elderly shut-ins. One morning she delivers communion to a Mrs. Epifanio who tells Amy that she hasn't seen her usual caretaker, a woman The protagonist is this novel is a young woman named Amy who lives in a tiny, dingy basement apartment in Brooklyn. Amy used to party hard, but after her lover breaks up with her, she retreats into a much different, much quieter, and much more lonely life. She now does volunteer work, principally for her church, and among other things, she delivers communion to elderly shut-ins. One morning she delivers communion to a Mrs. Epifanio who tells Amy that she hasn't seen her usual caretaker, a woman named Diane, in several days. Moments later, a man who identifies himself as Diane's son, Vincent, walks in on the two women, having let himself in with a key that he apparently got from his mother. He tells Amy that his mother is sick and that he is checking in on Mrs. Epifanio until she gets better. Amy is very unsettled by Vincent's appearance, especially when Mrs. Epifanio tells her that Vincent has been rooting around in her bedroom on his earlier visits. Determined to discover what might be going on, Amy takes to following Vincent and then witnesses something that she wasn't meant to see. The remainder of the book unfolds as Amy deals with the consequences of what she has seen and what she has done--and not done--in consequence. I have very mixed emotions about this book. For me, it's principal strength is the setting. Boyle clearly knows the neighborhoods in which he has set the novel and the sense of place is outstanding. The reader feels as though he, or she, is walking right alongside Amy as she makes her way along, even though, personally, I don't think I'd want to visit many of these scenes, let alone live in them. On the downside, I simply could not relate to the character of Amy who, to my way of thinking, made one incredibly bad decision after another. In the end, many of her actions left me simply shaking my head. As a result, I couldn't develop any real empathy for her and, ultimately, I really didn't care very much what happened to her. Also, some of the criminal activity at the heart of the book is pretty hard to believe and so in the end, three and a half stars for me, rounded up to four for the great job Boyle does at setting the scene.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    William Boyle's new novel isn't exactly a sequel to his previous one, Gravesend , but we do follow Amy, a small side character from that first novel, a party girl who formed a relationship with Gravesend's heroine, Alessandra. In The Lonely Witness she has cut herself off from her past life after Alessandra abandons her, and sequesters herself socially in her Brooklyn neighborhood, where she volunteers for a local Catholic church, providing in-home communion for the elderly. Once again, Boyle p William Boyle's new novel isn't exactly a sequel to his previous one, Gravesend , but we do follow Amy, a small side character from that first novel, a party girl who formed a relationship with Gravesend's heroine, Alessandra. In The Lonely Witness she has cut herself off from her past life after Alessandra abandons her, and sequesters herself socially in her Brooklyn neighborhood, where she volunteers for a local Catholic church, providing in-home communion for the elderly. Once again, Boyle provides us with a deep study of an emotionally lost character as she drifts through a detailed Brooklyn steeped in sadness. The novel is all about identity as Amy struggles to figure out her place in the world. She constantly believes that the life she's set up for herself as a helper to the ignored is the right one, but she keeps finding herself pulled in other directions. Old friends from the past and the people who inhabit her life presently all know different Amy's, but the real question that she has to ask herself is which one is the real her. You get the sense that Amy has hidden behind all of these personality facades all her life and now she's on a journey to realize who she truly is. Amy, as well as most of the other characters in the book, set about to leave their dead end lives, sometimes with tragic consequences. Like Gravesend, this book is a slow novel and a bit meandering, but the reason why it doesn't fully succeed for me the way Gravesend did is because where that first novel switched back and forth between equally fascinating POV's, keeping it fresh, this one just focuses on one character, one that happens to be a hard nut to crack, so the pace and other issues were more evident. But the novel's conclusion as well as Boyle's keen-eyed observance really clicked with me. The Lonely Witness come out May 1, and this is my review of an advanced copy that I received in exchange for an honest review!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Occasionally, I will know that something is a bad idea and that I will regret doing it, and then, fully in possession of this knowledge, I will go ahead and do the bad thing anyway. I haven't yet taken a murder weapon from a crime scene, but, you know, I'm young yet. Anything could happen. Suffice to say, while I could see how Amy's virtual disconnect between her judgment and her actions could annoy someone, I found it to be just on the right side of unsettling and something that made for a stron Occasionally, I will know that something is a bad idea and that I will regret doing it, and then, fully in possession of this knowledge, I will go ahead and do the bad thing anyway. I haven't yet taken a murder weapon from a crime scene, but, you know, I'm young yet. Anything could happen. Suffice to say, while I could see how Amy's virtual disconnect between her judgment and her actions could annoy someone, I found it to be just on the right side of unsettling and something that made for a strong psychological suspense novel that's ultimately all about the stranger inside. For the last few years, Amy has been living a life that is, depending on how you look at it, either virtuous or stifling. She's reinvented herself from the heavily-tattooed, hard-living lesbian bartender to a young woman whose friends are mostly elderly people from her local church and whose only real work is delivering Communion to people who can't easily leave their houses. She has a probably-hopeless crush on a woman who works at her local Chinese restaurant. She avoids telling anyone in her new life about her orientation because she thinks they won't understand, but also, Boyle hints, because she wants to draw a thick line between her two selves. But her past and present collide when she has a run-in with Vincent, a guy who might just be a little bit of a jerk, might be an opportunistic sleaze, and might be a murderer. This plunges Amy back into her childhood, when she witnessed a murder and was pressured into keeping quiet but held onto a sense of power by following the murderer all over town. She starts tailing Vincent. This is all nicely done in a kind of dark, dreamy Highsmithian way, and then it takes a hard, sharp turn--basically always a boon in crime lit--when Vincent is murdered in front of her. She impulsively steals the murder weapon. And everything spirals out from there. Boyle unspools everything in a gradual, layered way. There's a plot, but the story is less the story of what happens and more the story of the way everyone responds to it, and in particular the way what's happening opens up unexplored parts of themselves: secret love affairs, opportunities for crime, wigs, new neighborhoods... I'm excited to read more Boyle.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    The Lonely Witness is a wonderfully-crafted character study. Though the action is quite limited for much of the book, it doesn't matter. The journey into Amy's world is so complex that you want to read more. These days, Amy is a church volunteer who ministers communion to shut-in elderly and spends time with them. She dresses conservatively and lives in a tiny basement apartment with few possessions. She used to have another life where she tended bar in Manhattan, dressed like a rockabilly model The Lonely Witness is a wonderfully-crafted character study. Though the action is quite limited for much of the book, it doesn't matter. The journey into Amy's world is so complex that you want to read more. These days, Amy is a church volunteer who ministers communion to shut-in elderly and spends time with them. She dresses conservatively and lives in a tiny basement apartment with few possessions. She used to have another life where she tended bar in Manhattan, dressed like a rockabilly model, partied until dawn, had intense romantic relationships with other women. Now, Amy witnesses a murder and somehow gets caught up in it. And, the question is who is she really. Which character is Amy and which is just a disguise. Who are we really underneath our costumes and disguises? An intensely written drama that starts slowly and builds to quite a crescendo. A very well-imagined piece of writing. Thanks to Pegasus Books for providing a copy for review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Benoit Lelièvre

    My patience for losers and marginals in literature has worn thin a long time ago, but leave it to Boyle to write the most sincere, realistic characters in need of a change of life. Young Amy is running in circles in her old stomping ground and looking for a way out, which she gets offered through tragedy. A tough novel to rank because it has technical problems, but a purpose so powerful is almost transcends them. William Boyle is one of the most reliable writers we have working today and The Lone My patience for losers and marginals in literature has worn thin a long time ago, but leave it to Boyle to write the most sincere, realistic characters in need of a change of life. Young Amy is running in circles in her old stomping ground and looking for a way out, which she gets offered through tragedy. A tough novel to rank because it has technical problems, but a purpose so powerful is almost transcends them. William Boyle is one of the most reliable writers we have working today and The Lonely Witness is a testament to that.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    Troubled woman in rut looking for way out of her neighbourhood but gets caught in whirlpool, a witness, a ... , money tempting her, she cleaned up, people needed her, a parishioner, but some new things come to her realm, paternal figure tries to interlope her struggles. She’s not so used to have someone to call dad, as he has not been around making wrongs right, atonements. A noir thriller that has this likeable main female character up against it trying to serve out a pipe dream and find her pla Troubled woman in rut looking for way out of her neighbourhood but gets caught in whirlpool, a witness, a ... , money tempting her, she cleaned up, people needed her, a parishioner, but some new things come to her realm, paternal figure tries to interlope her struggles. She’s not so used to have someone to call dad, as he has not been around making wrongs right, atonements. A noir thriller that has this likeable main female character up against it trying to serve out a pipe dream and find her place in love, in credit, and free from the bonds that tie her to the past. Nice writing in a gripping tale that keeps the reader on till the end with vested interests in one woman’s fate.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Canaves

    Great Character Driven Crime Novel I can see why people get frustrated with characters that don’t react/respond in situations the way a reader would, but for me I think we most likely won’t react the way we think we will in extreme situations. Also, I don’t find it interesting to watch characters behave like me. I enjoy reading the exploration of “But why would you do that?!”–and that was certainly the main character Amy. Living in a Brooklyn neighborhood, Amy has reduced her life after her girl Great Character Driven Crime Novel I can see why people get frustrated with characters that don’t react/respond in situations the way a reader would, but for me I think we most likely won’t react the way we think we will in extreme situations. Also, I don’t find it interesting to watch characters behave like me. I enjoy reading the exploration of “But why would you do that?!”–and that was certainly the main character Amy. Living in a Brooklyn neighborhood, Amy has reduced her life after her girlfriend left her. She’s donated her time to the church and offers communion to elderly residents at their homes. It’s on one of these visits where the trouble begins: Mrs. Epifanio thinks her caretaker’s son murdered his mom, and that’s why she hasn’t shown up and he’s been coming instead with his mom’s key and rummaging in Mrs. Epifanio’s bedroom. Amy ends up trying to help Mrs. Epifanio by following the son, and finds herself witnessing a crime and opening the door to danger. A good crime novel that explores loneliness, regret, forgiveness, and whether we can ever make ourselves small enough to avoid the world, and our past, from hurting us again. --from Book Riot's Unusual Suspects newsletter: http://link.bookriot.com/view/56a8200...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andy Weston

    Boyle’s follow up to Gravesend is set in the same area of New York and makes reference to the crimes but that is all. It is not a ‘second in series’ by any means. After a promising start it get caught up in domestic and neighbourhood activity and lacks the action and the more direct approach that made his first book so compelling. It is best seen as a character study of Amy. From her once wild party life she now volunteers for the Church, and has been visiting an elderly parishioner when she w Boyle’s follow up to Gravesend is set in the same area of New York and makes reference to the crimes but that is all. It is not a ‘second in series’ by any means. After a promising start it get caught up in domestic and neighbourhood activity and lacks the action and the more direct approach that made his first book so compelling. It is best seen as a character study of Amy. From her once wild party life she now volunteers for the Church, and has been visiting an elderly parishioner when she witnesses a crime. Her life changes as she finds herself once again mixing with the seedier side of the neighbourhood. It isn’t as strong as Gravesend , but it has its moments. 60 or so pages less could have made it a far more appealing story.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    "No way was it wrong to chase a feeling, to be unhinged, to act out of fear and fascination. How did she lose that knowledge? Whatever she'd gained had led to so much lost." For my entire life I've been telling people that fall is my favorite season because it's when the light changes, everything dies off, and as such it's incredibly goth. In reality, however, fall makes me endlessly anxious and depressed and is the start of the nightmare season of winter and every year I get to about November an "No way was it wrong to chase a feeling, to be unhinged, to act out of fear and fascination. How did she lose that knowledge? Whatever she'd gained had led to so much lost." For my entire life I've been telling people that fall is my favorite season because it's when the light changes, everything dies off, and as such it's incredibly goth. In reality, however, fall makes me endlessly anxious and depressed and is the start of the nightmare season of winter and every year I get to about November and I'm over it. What I really crave as a person is natural light until nine at night, warmth, and no enforced bedtimes for my child, so I am boldly proclaiming my truth: summer is really where it's at, especially the beginning of June. And this is exactly the type of kick in the pants book that I needed to start off my summer, the type where you pick up, read the first few pages, and then moments later it's been three hours and you're 2/3s of the way through. Amy Falconetti wears sensible pants now instead of swing capris and sugar skull flats and she takes communion to the housebound ladies in her church instead of tending bar, but that doesn't stop her from making an escalating series of terrible choices after witnessing a murder. This is filled with perfectly drawn neighborhood characters like lonely, chatty landlord Mr. Pezzolanti, heartbroken Diane Marchetti, little Mrs. Epifanio, Connie Giacchino, Monsignor Riccardi, and Mrs. Mescolotto, who yells things like, "You call the cops, and I'll have this fucking place blown up with you inside. You know my father, Jimmy Longabardi? You know that name?" This is smooth and quick and beautifully written and the last thirty or so pages are masterful, just impeccably-realized scenes that had me fanning myself because they were so great. Summer, come get me.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    I was about 29% in to this book and was really ready to put it down. Then, I read a review that said it was slow at the beginning, but got better. So, I decided to give it a try. Well, it did have action over halfway through I think. That action, however, was interspersed with what seemed to me to be filler pages. The action did get my pulse racing a little, but that's only because I scanned the many filler pages and looked for it. I had a lot of sympathy for Amy still trying to figure things out. I was about 29% in to this book and was really ready to put it down. Then, I read a review that said it was slow at the beginning, but got better. So, I decided to give it a try. Well, it did have action over halfway through I think. That action, however, was interspersed with what seemed to me to be filler pages. The action did get my pulse racing a little, but that's only because I scanned the many filler pages and looked for it. I had a lot of sympathy for Amy still trying to figure things out. However, I was sold on the understanding that this was a thriller. In short you go through a LOT of filler pages about Amy's issues before I got to the action part. I was really expecting more action. Thanks to Pegasus Books and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    Amy lives a lonely life as a volunteer for the Catholic Church which is very different from the party lifestyle she once had. A home bound lady she visits tells Amy that her caretaker Diane has not been to see her in a few days but Diane's son came by acting suspiciously. Amy follows the son a couple of times to see what he might be up to and witnesses his murder. Instead of calling the police, she picks up the knife and takes it home with her. Soon the killer begins following her. The book is dr Amy lives a lonely life as a volunteer for the Catholic Church which is very different from the party lifestyle she once had. A home bound lady she visits tells Amy that her caretaker Diane has not been to see her in a few days but Diane's son came by acting suspiciously. Amy follows the son a couple of times to see what he might be up to and witnesses his murder. Instead of calling the police, she picks up the knife and takes it home with her. Soon the killer begins following her. The book is driven by Amy's character as she tries to find herself and I felt a very modern vibe as I was reading. This murder was not the first one Amy had witnessed in her life and she didn't call the police either time. It's driven into my brain that if you see something happening, say something, so I couldn't relate. The book was easy to read but just not my style.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marion

    Overall I liked the book. I could have done without the political commentary, and found the ending a little disappointing and sad. I preferred the big-hearted Amy from the beginning of the book, but didn’t like who she became at the end. However, there were plenty of other colorful characters (although a bit exaggerated) and enough suspense to keep me reading.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Megan Abbott

    Gorgeous and wrenching. I just felt in love with the main character, Amy--a former wild girl now living a kind of penitent life back in her old Brooklyn neighborhood. After she witnesses a crime, everything begins to unravel for her, and her journey though the novel is harrowing, surprising and so authentic. A knockout book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I detest the way this is written. The first person, present tense point of view is probably meant to increase the tension, but I don't think it is done well. The cadence is off and I don't want to hear any more details about the MC's childhood. Because I stopped at page 33, I'm not giving this a star rating. Bailed 6/7/2018 - will not try again.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Katie McGuire

    To start off, I'm biased—I acquired and edited this book for Pegasus. But I only work on projects I know I would've found—and fallen in love with—on my own. As a lifelong mystery fan (thanks, Nancy Drew),THE LONELY WITNESS is exactly the kind of novel I love. It's a mystery with so much more built in, exploring the complexities of one woman's mind and the ways in which our lives tangle with our neighbors and our friends. I've never lived in Brooklyn, but I am a native New Yorker, and so I know t To start off, I'm biased—I acquired and edited this book for Pegasus. But I only work on projects I know I would've found—and fallen in love with—on my own. As a lifelong mystery fan (thanks, Nancy Drew),THE LONELY WITNESS is exactly the kind of novel I love. It's a mystery with so much more built in, exploring the complexities of one woman's mind and the ways in which our lives tangle with our neighbors and our friends. I've never lived in Brooklyn, but I am a native New Yorker, and so I know the people walking Amy's streets. The realism adds a layer of grit and intelligence that hooked me from the first page.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Doreen

    Amy Falconetti, a thirty-something New Yorker, has abandoned her life as a bartender and partier. She volunteers for a church, bringing communion to elderly shut-ins. One day she follows a man who has discomfited one of her elderly neighbours and witnesses his murder. Instead of calling the police, she picks up the murder weapon and leaves; in the following days, she starts to worry that the killer is following her. Her routine life suddenly becomes chaotic, complicated even further when two peo Amy Falconetti, a thirty-something New Yorker, has abandoned her life as a bartender and partier. She volunteers for a church, bringing communion to elderly shut-ins. One day she follows a man who has discomfited one of her elderly neighbours and witnesses his murder. Instead of calling the police, she picks up the murder weapon and leaves; in the following days, she starts to worry that the killer is following her. Her routine life suddenly becomes chaotic, complicated even further when two people from her past make unexpected returns. This book just didn’t do anything for me. Amy’s behaviour from the beginning is just unbelievable. After her former lover abandoned her, she explains, “’I started going to church, and I just felt like I could hide out and maybe help people.’” She does not seem to be religious or spiritual and as a gay person would probably have some difficulties with the teachings of the Catholic faith, but she chooses to deliver communion? She witnesses a murder yet does nothing to help the victim? Instead she takes the murder weapon and hides it in her home? Especially after the childhood incident involving Bob Tully, an incident which she describes as having “shaped her life,” she chooses to behave as she does? When Amy says, “’I don’t know why I do what I do,’” the reader can only echo with “I don’t know why you do what you do!” And when she thinks, “this was definitely the wrong road to go down. Beyond the pale. Epic as fuck, in terms of how stupid she’s being,” the reader can only agree! It seems that Amy is trying to find her true identity: “’I’ve been searching for an identity my whole life, trying all these different lives.’” For years she lived an entirely different life drinking and partying: “She thinks about what she would’ve done when she was twenty-five or twenty-eight. She would’ve gone out. She would’ve headed straight to the bar. Shots. Beer. Music. She wouldn’t have felt intimidated or regretful. High school had taught her that . . . no way was it wrong to chase a feeling, to be unhinged, to act out of fear and fascination. How did she lose that knowledge? Whatever she’d gained had led to so much lost.” Now she feels she has become “so boring.” She even toys with reclaiming her old life by dressing in her old clothes and revisiting old haunts and friends. She decides she does not want to grow old, living in “fear of a toxic future. Lives get smaller, ruled by paranoia and isolation, and there’s nothing left to do but stay in retreat, stay hidden. Collect things, shield yourself, keep out of the sun.” When Amy makes some questionable choices, she justifies them to herself as a desire to escape her boring existence: “You do things because you have to be near the beating heart of terror.” Perhaps my inability to identify with Amy stems from the fact that I don’t want to live “near the beating heart of terror.” I don’t need to stalk potentially violent people or contemplate carrying out a criminal act in order “to fill the void.” Amy is in her mid-thirties and says she is “starting to feel old” but she behaves like someone half her age. As a teenager, she found “Catholic school was boring. The nuns were boring. Her grandparents were boring. Smoking was boring.” Twenty years later, she has the same complaint that she has become “so boring”?! Not living in an inner city, perhaps my life is too safe so I have difficulty understanding the lives of people who witness murders on a regular basis; three major characters witness four murders. In the end, Amy comments, “Maybe she’ll feel new for a while, this most recent wreck a movie she never wants to watch again.” Her comments reflected my feelings as I finished the novel: I wanted to move on to something new because I felt like I had watched a bad movie (with an especially bad climactic scene with ever so not subtle symbolism) which I do not want to watch again. Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski).

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dave Newman

    The main character of The Lonely Witness, a young woman named Amy, volunteers for a church in one of the run-down neighborhoods in Gravesend. She works odd jobs for money. She lives in a basement apartment where the landlord, a lonely old man who looks after her like a daughter, barely asks for rent. A former partier who bounced around New York with her girlfriend Alesandra, Amy now dedicates her life to helping others. Not necessarily religious, Amy uses the church and its connection and needs The main character of The Lonely Witness, a young woman named Amy, volunteers for a church in one of the run-down neighborhoods in Gravesend. She works odd jobs for money. She lives in a basement apartment where the landlord, a lonely old man who looks after her like a daughter, barely asks for rent. A former partier who bounced around New York with her girlfriend Alesandra, Amy now dedicates her life to helping others. Not necessarily religious, Amy uses the church and its connection and needs to make a better world. This is a novel about help and how, in our troubled times, even charity can be dangerous, or maybe it's this: charity is the most dangerous act. It leaves you hopeful. It leaves you vulnerable. Kindness and generosity will make you feel like a saint or act like a hustler or both and more. In William Boyle's world, you're more dangerous with an open heart than you are with a gun or knife, but guns and knives are still dangerous, guns and knives are still the preferred tools of killers. What a fucked-up time we live in, and what a great novel this is. Amy's life and the lives she interacts with are the lives that the newspapers and news sites miss: people desperate for connection, barely making a living, not making a living, drinking and drugging and fucking to make some sense of a world that offers so few chances for success and so many chances to screw everything up. This is a crime book, meaning the main character sees a crime, but it's a character book, and a literary book, and a noir novel. William Boyle is a Catholic writer in the same way Flannery O'Connor is a Catholic writer or Andre Dubus is a Catholic writer. He's an Italian American writer in the same vein as John Fante or AI Bezzerides or Pietro di Donato. He's a neighborhood writer like David Goodis. He's a crime writer like George Pelecanos. The Lonely Witness could easily be made into a series on HBO, written by David Simon. I walked away from this book feeling like I felt when I've read other William Boyle books: a little sad, a little hopeful, a little more in touch with a world I sometimes walk through and completely miss. Literature is still the best place to learn about people. William Boyle is a brilliant writer and teacher. He knows things the rest of us don't know and this novel allows him to spread his truths.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ross Cumming

    I read and enjoyed William Boyle's previous novel 'Gravesend' and 'The Lonely Witness' is a sequel of sorts to it, as it is set in the Gravesend area of Brooklyn and the main protagonist, Amy Falconetti featured in the previous novel. In 'Gravesend' Amy was the funky, tattooed, bartender and gay lover of Alessandra, the local girl turned actress who found minor fame featuring in several movies. In this novel we learn that Amy and Alessandra have split up and Alessandra has moved to L.A. leaving I read and enjoyed William Boyle's previous novel 'Gravesend' and 'The Lonely Witness' is a sequel of sorts to it, as it is set in the Gravesend area of Brooklyn and the main protagonist, Amy Falconetti featured in the previous novel. In 'Gravesend' Amy was the funky, tattooed, bartender and gay lover of Alessandra, the local girl turned actress who found minor fame featuring in several movies. In this novel we learn that Amy and Alessandra have split up and Alessandra has moved to L.A. leaving Amy still living in Gravesend. Amy however is leading a different life now altogether, as she lives in a spartan basement flat, doing voluntary work for the church and also working as a minister and giving communion to the housebound and elderley living in the local neighbourhood. When Amy witnesses the murder of local man Vincent, instead of reporting the crime to the Police, she takes the murder weapon from the scene and tries to investigate the crime herself. Her logic being that she had had a similar experience when she was young which has left a profound impression on her. However the tables are soon turned on Amy when the perpretrator of the crime confronts her and seeks her assistance to retrieve jewellery apparently stolen from him by the deceased. I started out quite enjoying this novel as Amy starts out as a caring person, who looks out for and after the interests of the elderly parishioners that she tends too. Her decision not to report the crime is strange but is linked to an incident that occurred in her past and she believes that by doing the same thing again, things will work out. But as soon as Amy is offered a share of the spoils by the culprit her character changes and she apparently reverts to the person she previously was, which is very selfish, self centred and really not very nice. She tries to seize the chance to escape the life she has fallen into and is suffocating her and wants to return to her previous lifestyle where she was free to do as she pleased. The return of two characters from her past, back into her life also complicates her decision making process and events soon overtake her. Enjoyable enough novel but I found Amy's decision making very strange and didn't really enjoy the character transformation that she goes through. There are some great minor characters in the novel that gives it a really authentic feel and the dialogue is sharp, witty and also quite funny.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tonstant Weader

    William Boyle’s The Lonely Witness drew me in with the title. It is a compelling idea. I can imagine all sorts of stories with a lonely witness, but none of my imaginings came close to the wild ride Boyle takes us on. We begin with Amy, a heartbroken young woman who has lost her mojo after her lover Alessandra left her to pursue success in Hollywood. She drops out of the world of bars and parties and began volunteering at the neighborhood church, bringing communion to seniors in the neighborhood William Boyle’s The Lonely Witness drew me in with the title. It is a compelling idea. I can imagine all sorts of stories with a lonely witness, but none of my imaginings came close to the wild ride Boyle takes us on. We begin with Amy, a heartbroken young woman who has lost her mojo after her lover Alessandra left her to pursue success in Hollywood. She drops out of the world of bars and parties and began volunteering at the neighborhood church, bringing communion to seniors in the neighborhood. The mystery begins when a neighborhood tough guy frightens one of the women she visits. He says his mom is ill but they begin to wonder if he murdered her. Amy investigates and witnesses his murder. This is not the first time she saw a murder. The last time she was a child and she never told anyone, even after she was threatened and menaced by the killer. She inexplicably does the same, not calling the police, not admitting she saw the crime, and then trying to find the murderer, though with no idea why. https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre... I like this book a little more than I think it deserves. I liked Amy even though she is someone life happens to rather than someone who makes life happen. Usually, I hate that, but she has a tenacious quality, a sullen stubbornness, that I like even though she is not the brightest bulb in the store. Perhaps instead of being the Lonely Witness, she is more the Witless Loner. This is not a big mystery. You know who the killer is as soon as Amy does when she sees him. He’s not the brightest bulb either. No one shines. In a way, the most sympathetic character is the recovering alcoholic who has decided to come back to Amy seeking forgiveness after abandoning her and her mother when Amy was a child. Amy is not interested, though she is polite. After all, she thought he was dead. In a way, it seems like Amy is in a funk and perhaps she’s one of those people who need a good murder to get out of it. I received an e-galley of The Lonely Witness from the publisher through NetGalley. It will be released May 1st. The Lonely Witness at Pegasus Books William Boyle author site

  21. 5 out of 5

    Roth

    I want to give The Lonely Witness five stars because it is a beautifully written character study that transplants the reader into the heart of-- the other main character--Brooklyn, but because I have very mixed emotions about the main character, Amy, I gave it 3.5 (rounded up to 4) stars. At the beginning of the story, I empathized and rooted for Amy as she struggled to become a better person, as she set herself aside to let God in and as she tried to help others in such secular, shallow and sel I want to give The Lonely Witness five stars because it is a beautifully written character study that transplants the reader into the heart of-- the other main character--Brooklyn, but because I have very mixed emotions about the main character, Amy, I gave it 3.5 (rounded up to 4) stars. At the beginning of the story, I empathized and rooted for Amy as she struggled to become a better person, as she set herself aside to let God in and as she tried to help others in such secular, shallow and self-absorbed times as these. But as the story unfolds and Amy continues to make one incredibly bad decision after another, not only did I start to dislike her, I couldn't juxtapose Amy's judgments, actions, and thoughts from the beginning of the story to the end of the story. In other words, despite knowing Amy's traumatic and dysfunctional background and realizing the unconscious dynamics that would produce in her psyche and her struggle for identity, I couldn't reconcile the Amy at the beginning with the Amy at the end. Maybe it's just me, but there's a disconnect I just can't seem to put my finger on.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    THE LONELY WITNESS. (2018). William Boyle. ***. This was well written, but was one of those books that I will forget on an immediate basis. I’m becoming numb being faced with gay protagonists who only have their past to dwell on. The principal character, Amy, is a Brooklynite who has jobs that – from others that I know – don’t get paid for. She delivers communion for stay-at-homes. She helps out at the local old folks home. I kept wondering where she gets her money. Not that it matters: She leads THE LONELY WITNESS. (2018). William Boyle. ***. This was well written, but was one of those books that I will forget on an immediate basis. I’m becoming numb being faced with gay protagonists who only have their past to dwell on. The principal character, Amy, is a Brooklynite who has jobs that – from others that I know – don’t get paid for. She delivers communion for stay-at-homes. She helps out at the local old folks home. I kept wondering where she gets her money. Not that it matters: She leads a Spartan life in a cheap (almost free) apartment, and walks constantly. Walking in Brooklyn is probably one of the most boring things to read about that I can think of. For some excitement, she takes a hired car. Not much happens to Amy. She sees things that happen to other people, but they really don’t happen to her. With a life like that, you tend to bore people. It worked for me. Even seeing a couple of murders in her life don’t get up the reader’s interest. Oh, well. Not everyone is interesting – but it sure would be nice to have some degree of interest in a book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rory Costello

    There is much to savor here, thanks to William Boyle's amazing eye for small picturesque details. That starts with the main character, Amy, with her clothing, hair, and possessions (or lack thereof). The physical descriptions of all the characters are very rich; Fred is another example. Boyle also pays homage again to New York City, especially Brooklyn, and the way it is both replacing the past (not for the better, in large part) and decaying. The descriptions of the down-at-heel nether reaches o There is much to savor here, thanks to William Boyle's amazing eye for small picturesque details. That starts with the main character, Amy, with her clothing, hair, and possessions (or lack thereof). The physical descriptions of all the characters are very rich; Fred is another example. Boyle also pays homage again to New York City, especially Brooklyn, and the way it is both replacing the past (not for the better, in large part) and decaying. The descriptions of the down-at-heel nether reaches of Brooklyn and the older folks with their possessions from another era are so vivid. On one level, this is a crime story. Yet more than anything, it is a human story. Some found it slow-moving, but I ate it right up. The only question in my mind remains Amy's motivation. I still find the choices she made that set the plot in motion to be puzzling.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Beaulieu

    If you read the book jacket you might think this is a mystery, and it definitely is not. It's a character study of someone who has survived trauma. (Either I keep accidentally picking up books about trauma and its aftermath, or I have a psychological problem I am not aware of!) It was really well done on that level, a person who goes in and in and in on herself. The actions of the character might drive some people mad, because she is truly a ding dong and a mess. (view spoiler)[I also love that If you read the book jacket you might think this is a mystery, and it definitely is not. It's a character study of someone who has survived trauma. (Either I keep accidentally picking up books about trauma and its aftermath, or I have a psychological problem I am not aware of!) It was really well done on that level, a person who goes in and in and in on herself. The actions of the character might drive some people mad, because she is truly a ding dong and a mess. (view spoiler)[I also love that she isn't "fixed" at the end, though there is some light down that tunnel. (hide spoiler)]

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Hopkins

    I get that you want to make it authentic and show people you 'grew up' in the cite the book is set in but I DON'T CARE ABOUT LOCATIONS and the second you're like she started on Rat Street and then turned down Thin Crust Pizza Avenue to get to Mets Suck Bar I have literally already forgotten what I'm reading.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Helen Geng

    This is the rare modern noir novel that is not too short, not too long, but exactly the right length. (Okay, maybe the characterizations of Amy & a few other characters could have been sharper. Maybe a little more humor could have ratcheted up the tension.) You'll especially enjoy it if you've ever lived in Brooklyn.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Noir at its best Hard to know what to say about this book. It is superb at making you feel as if you are there. The characters are wonderfully drawn from life. So many adjectives I could use: nuanced, dark, sad, bleak. Mostly, it has a strong ring of truth. I really look forward to Boyle’s continued work.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Top Newcomer Boyle is the real deal. Gritty hardboiled novel set in Brooklyn, not quite noir but almost. This is the author’s second novel- his first, Gravesend, is being reissued later this year. Get on the bandwagon early with this great new crime writer.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joann Amidon

    Amy about wore me out with her endless wonderings and wanderings. I wanted her to settle a bit, no matter how she was dressed. The descriptions of Brooklyn are excellent and were probably what kept me reading to the end. Fortunately, the book is not too long or I might not have made it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Keara Cochran

    I really enjoyed the tone of this book and the lead character Amy. I found elements of the plot to be highly unprobable or completely irrational, but chose to take the events more allegorically for the lead character rather than in actuality.

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