Toronto, 1960. Mo Gold and Arthur Birdwell, aka Birdie, are like fish out of water.
Mo is Jewish and sardonic; Birdie's black, thoughtful and gargantuan. They're both private detectives. Henry Turner disappeared eight years ago, without a trace. His mother wants him back. Mo and Birdie try to find him. They search high and low.
Mo has family issues. His brother, Eli, is a rotten gambler. He’s in hock to John Fat Gai — the city’s most notorious gangster. Mo and Birdie need to find John’s missing money. If they do, John will free Eli. If not, Eli is toast. They’ve got three days.
Mo’s father, Jake, is in prison on a manslaughter beef. Jake and Mo have an acrimonious relationship. After all, Mo worked as a homicide cop while Jake plied his criminal trade. When Jake escapes from prison, all hell breaks loose.
The city is known as Toronto the Good. But Mo never sees that side.
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Ying Hee Fong looked like an angel minus the wings. Whoever shot him did a good job. He couldn’t have been deader if he’d lived then died again. Blood gushed from a jagged hole in his right temple, spilling into a sticky pool circling his head. He looked serene. Dark eyes stared into eternity, legs sprawled, arms thrown up over his shoulders. Just like a kid making angels in the snow. Except the snow melted, stripping bare the rotting garbage of a back alley in Chinatown.
Ying worked for John Fat Gai, a gambler and racketeer. John ran illegal poker games and craps in dingy rooms above chop suey joints and small food markets where, for a nickel, you could catch a disease and buy a rotting cabbage. Wherever you found a spare table, chairs, bootleg whiskey and suckers willing to throw their money away, the action never stopped. Ying dealt the cards, sometimes straight up. The dealers worked six shifts a week from 11 at night until six the following morning. They got Sundays off. None of them went to church. Like the others, Ying came off a boat owned by John who paid customs officials at Pier 21 in Halifax to look the other way. He arrived with a host of other bedraggled refugees toting a battered suitcase and not much else. His life and earnings belonged to John Fat Gai. Ying had made his deal but decided he couldn’t live with it. We saw the result.