The second in a trilogy that began with the successful Harlem Shuffle, Crook Manifesto blends dark elements with humor to feature the gritty realities in New York City’s complex history. From Blaxploitation films, America’s Bicentennial Celebrations, and the Jackson Five, Whitehead shows popular culture as it was five decades ago, to high crime rates, social unrest, swelling racial tension, and anti-police sentiment that seem to mirror life today. The novel is an unembellished exploration of harsh truths. Yet in between the corruption, theft, violence, and a motley crew of hustlers and hitmen is Whitehead’s perhaps unexpected exploration into the meaning of family, adding greater depth to the narrative.
Colson Whitehead’s kaleidoscopic portrait of Harlem explores a city under siege and a turbulent decade, told through the eyes of a colorful cast over multiple years. Fans of this novel’s predecessor will appreciate the reprisal of earlier characters and familiar situations, and new readers may be drawn to Crook Manifesto’s unique blend of dark comedy, caper, and commentary on the urban landscape.