Shutter Man


By Richard Montanari

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Plagued with a rare disease that prevents him from recognizing faces, Billy carries a photograph in his pocket that is his only way of identifying his next target. Killing is in Billy’s bloodline, as a member of Philadelphia’s dangerous Farren crime family.

While Billy stalks Philadelphia, Detective Kevin Byrne is assigned to a series of bizarre home-invasion cases and is joined by his former partner-turned-assistant district attorney, Jessica Balzano. Their investigations circle Byrne’s childhood neighborhood of Devil’s Pocket, and they find themselves revisiting a crime from Byrne’s past that has haunted him for decades. What Byrne witnessed as a child in Devil’s Pocket jeopardizes the Farren family — which makes him the next target on Billy’s hit list. A multigenerational story of hardship, guilt, and redemption, Shutter Man is Byrne and Balzano’s most tense and personal case to date.

One of The New York Times’s 10 Best Crime Novels of 2016


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Who are you?

I am Billy the Wolf.

Why did God make it so you can't see people's faces?

So I can see their souls.

Philadelphia, 2015

At the moment the black SUV made its second pass in front of the Rousseau house, a tidy stone colonial in the Melrose Park section of the city, Laura Rousseau was putting the finishing touches to a leg of lamb.

It was her husband's fortieth birthday.

Although Angelo Rousseau said every year that he did not want anyone to make a fuss, he had been talking about his mother's roast lamb recipe for the past three weeks. Angelo Rousseau had many fine qualities. Subtlety was not among them.

Laura had just finished chopping the fresh rosemary when she heard the front door open and close, heard footsteps in the hall leading to the kitchen. It was her son, Mark.

A tall, muscular boy with an almost balletic grace, seventeen-year-old Mark Rousseau was the vice president of his class's student council, and captain of his track team. He had his eye on the 1,000- and 5,000-meter events at the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

As Mark entered the kitchen, Laura slipped the lamb into the oven and set the timer.

'How was practice?' she asked.

'Good,' Mark said. He took a carton of orange juice out of the refrigerator and was just about to drink from it when he fielded a withering glance from his mother. He smiled, pulled a glass from the cupboard and poured it full. 'Shaved a quarter-second off my hundred.'

'My speedy boy,' Laura said. 'How come it takes you a month to clean your room?'

'No cheerleaders.'

Laura laughed.

'See if you can find an egg in the fridge,' she said. 'I looked twice and didn't see any. All I need is one for the apple turnovers. Please tell me we have an egg.'

Mark poked around in the refrigerator, moving plastic containers, cartons of milk, juice, yogurt. 'Nope,' he said. 'Not a one.'

'No egg wash, no turnovers,' Laura said. 'They're your father's favorite.'

'I'll go.'

Laura glanced at the clock. 'It's okay. I've been in the house all day. I need the exercise.'

'No you don't,' Mark said.

'What do you mean?'

'All my friends say I've got the hottest mom.'

'They do not.'

'Carl Fiore thinks you look like Téa Leoni,' Mark said.

'Carl Fiore needs glasses.'

'That's true. But he's not wrong about this.'

'You sure you don't mind going to the store?' Laura asked.

Mark smiled, tapped the digital clock on the oven. 'Time me.'

Forty-five minutes later, Laura stepped out of the shower and looked at herself in the steamed mirror. The image was blurred, smoothing over all the imperfections.

Maybe Carl Fiore is right, she thought. Maybe I am the hottest mom.

By the time she toweled off and dried her hair, the mirror was clear, and soon-to-be-forty-herself Laura Rousseau was back.

As she put the hair dryer in the hall closet, the house seemed strangely quiet. Usually at this time of the early evening Laura could hear Mark playing music or video games in his room, or Angelo watching SportsCenter in the den.


Silence. A flat, unsettling silence.

When Laura turned the corner, heading toward the stairs, she saw shadows spill across the floor. She glanced up to see two men standing in the hallway. They were too old to be Mark's friends, too rough-looking to be Angelo's acquaintances or customers. She'd never seen them in the neighborhood. Both in their thirties, one had close-cropped hair, the other had hair to his shoulders.

Something was not right.

'Laura Rousseau,' the one with short hair said. It was not a question. It was a statement. The man knew her name.

Before Laura could stop herself, she said, 'Yes.'

The man with long hair flipped on the hall light, and Laura saw that he had a handgun tucked into the waistband of his jeans. The other man held a straight razor.

'Your family needs you in the living room,' the long-haired man said.

When they stepped to the side, Laura ran past them, into the living room, into hell.

Her husband and son were seated on dining room chairs in the center of the room, slumped forward, their feet and hands bound with duct tape. There was also duct tape over their mouths and eyes.

The floor beneath them was soaked with blood.

As the world began to violently spin from her grasp, Laura felt herself being forced onto a chair by strong hands.

'What… have… you… done?' Laura managed. Her words sounded small and distant to her ears, as if someone else was whispering to her.

The man with long hair knelt in front of her. 'Do you know my face?' he asked.

The horror uncoiled within Laura, threatening to burst from her body.

This is real, she thought. This is really happening.

The man took a photograph from his pocket, held it next to her face. In that moment Laura thought she saw something in his cold blue eyes. A reluctance, perhaps. A moment of hesitation.

'Put this on,' the other man said.

Laura turned to see that he had one of her blouses in his hand.

After she put on the cowl-neck top, the long-haired man again looked at the photograph. He nodded, stood and slowly walked behind her. He bound her to the chair with duct tape, put his hands on her shoulders.

'I saw a stranger today,' he said. 'I put food for him in the eating place. And drink in the drinking place. And music in the listening place.'

Laura dared to glance at her dead son. Mark Rousseau was suddenly a toddler again, stumbling his way around this very room, steadying himself on the wall with one tiny hand.

'In the Holy name of the Trinity He blessed myself and my family…'

She looked at her dead husband. Angelo David Rousseau, the love of her life, her pillar. He'd proposed to her on his birthday–nineteen years ago to the day–telling her she'd be the only present he would ever want.

'And the lark said in her warble: Often, often, often goes Christ in the stranger's guise.'

The man took his hands from Laura's shoulders, circled back in front of her.

'O, oft and oft and oft, goes Christ in the stranger's guise.'

He racked the slide on his weapon. The click of metal on metal echoed like the murmur of wasps, and soon fell to silence. He placed the tip of the barrel against Laura's heart.

Do you know my face?

In her last moments Laura Rousseau remembered where she had seen the man's face before.

It was in her nightmares.


The Pocket


Philadelphia, July 2, 1976

The man in the wrinkled white suit stuttered across the square like a wounded finch, the soles of his shoes strapped to the uppers with black electrician's tape, his zipper frozen at quartermast. He wore dark wire-rimmed glasses.

His name was Desmond Farren.

Although the man was not yet forty, his hair was a muddied gray, long but mathematically combed, the part arrowed down the middle. On the right side, just above his ear, was a small, perfect circle of white.

Desmond Farren sat down on the bench in front of the shoe store, his stick-man silhouette all but lost in the bright posters behind him–50% Off Selected Merchandise! Beach Sandals, Buy One Pair, Get One Pair Free!

The four boys sitting on the opposite bench–none having yet reached the age of fourteen, nor anywhere near the height they one day would–paid the man scant mind. Not at first.

Someone on the square had a radio playing Elton John's 'Philadelphia Freedom', already an anthem in the City of Brotherly Love.

The boys were one month into their summer vacation, and the girls in their tube tops and short shorts, having a year earlier endured the brunt of nervous, poorly told jokes, had suddenly reached a state of grace that eclipsed every Act of Contrition ever said.

In a city of neighborhoods, of which Philadelphia boasted more than one hundred, boundaries only moved in the minds of those not tasked to keep watch.

Follow the Schuylkill River north, from its confluence with the Delaware–past Bartram's Garden and Grays Ferry–and you will find, in the shadow of the South Street bridge, a small neighborhood of seventy or so families pleated into the eastern bank of the river, a crimp of peeling clapboard row houses, asphalt playgrounds, small corner stores and brown brick buildings as old as the city of Philadelphia itself.

It is called Devil's Pocket.

On listless July days, when the sun radiated off the colorless wooden houses and glinted off the windshields of the rusting cars that lined Christian Street, women in the Pocket wore sleeveless cotton sundresses, often with lace handkerchiefs tucked into their bra straps at the shoulder. The men wore Dickies work pants, white T-shirts, packs of Kools or Camels crafting square bulges in the front, their Red Wing boots and trouser cuffs sifted with dust from the brickyards.

The bars, of which there were a half-dozen in as many blocks, served well whiskeys and national brands on tap. On Fridays all year, not just during Lent, there were fish fries. On Sundays there were potluck dinners.

The prevailing theory on how the neighborhood got its name was that sometime in the 1930s, a parish priest said the kids there were so bad they would 'steal the chain out of the devil's pocket'.

To the four boys sitting on the bench across from the man in the white suit–Jimmy Doyle, Ronan Kittredge, Dave Carmody and Kevin Byrne–the Pocket was their domain.

Years later, if asked, the boys would recall this moment, this unspoiled tableau of summer, as the moment the darkness began to fall.

The boys watched as Desmond Farren took out a phlegmcrusted handkerchief, blew his nose into it, wiped the back of his neck, then replaced it in his pocket.

'Philadelphia Freedom' began again, this time from a second-story apartment over the square.

Jimmy put a hand on Ronan's shoulder, chucked a thumb at Des Farren. 'I see your boyfriend's not working today,' he said.

'Funny shit,' Ronan said. 'Wait, is that your sister's handkerchief?'

'Fuck you.'

'Not my type.'

Kevin got their attention, put a finger to his lips, nodded in the direction of the corner.

They all turned to look at the same time, all thinking it was a nun from St Anthony's, or someone's mother, and they would catch a backhand for using the F word. It was none of the above.

There, standing just a few feet away, was Catriona Daugherty.

The only child of a single mother who worked at the Naval Home as a nurse's assistant, eleven-year-old Catriona had light-blond hair, sapphire-blue eyes. She was rarely seen without a flower in her hand, even if it was only a dandelion. She always wore a ribbon in her hair.

There were some who said she was a bit slow, but none of those people were from the Pocket, and you said such things at your peril, especially in the presence of Jimmy Doyle.

The truth was, Catriona Daugherty was just fine. Perhaps she processed things a little more thoughtfully than most people, gave things more painstaking consideration, but she wasn't slow.

'Hey, Catie,' Jimmy said.

Catriona looked away, back at Jimmy, blushed. None of them had ever met anyone who reddened more deeply, or quickly, than Catriona Daugherty. Everyone knew that she had a crush on Jimmy, but she was in sixth grade, and that made Jimmy her protector, not her boyfriend. Maybe one day, but not now. Catriona was, by any measure of a teenage boy in the Pocket, or Philly as a whole, still a little girl. They all felt protective of her, but Jimmy was her chosen knight.

'Hey,' Catriona said softly.

Jimmy slid off the bench. Catriona instinctively backed up a little, which left her tottering on the curb. Jimmy took her by the elbow, gently moved her back onto the sidewalk.

'Watcha doin'?' he asked.

Catriona took a deep breath, said: 'Going to get a water ice?'

Catriona's grandmother was from Ireland, and Catriona spent much of her summers with the woman. As a result, she had that curious Irish lilt that made all statements sound like a question.

'What's your flavor?' Jimmy asked.

Another blush. She paused, waiting for a SEPTA bus to pass. When it did, she said: 'I like the strawberry?'

'My favorite!' Jimmy exclaimed. He reached into the right front pocket of his jeans, took out his roll, which was really three or four singles with a ten on the outside. 'Got enough money?'

Catriona looked away, toward her house, back. She held up a small white handkerchief, rubber-banded around a few coins. 'Mom gave me enough, she did.'

Two summers ago they had watched Catriona stop on the way to the corner store to jump rope with some of the neighborhood girls.

They had all seen her drop her hankie purse while she was jumping, and saw, as it opened, coins spilling onto the sidewalk. With one hard look from the then eleven-year-old Jimmy Doyle, no one dared move. When Catriona was done with the Double Dutch, she collected the coins–fully unaware that she had dropped her own money–and ran up to Jimmy bursting with excitement and pride.

'They threw money at me, Jimmy Doyle! Money!'

'Yes they did,' Jimmy said. 'You were great.'

Had the two of them been older, they might have hugged at that moment. Instead, they both backed away.

On this day, as Jimmy put away his roll, Kevin sensed someone exiting the grocery store, crossing the sidewalk. It was Catriona Daugherty's mother.

'Hello, men,' she said.

They all greeted her. Catriona's mother was younger than most of the mothers of school-age children in the Pocket, her fashion sense a little closer to the teenage girls with whom the boys were obsessed, a little more in tune with the times. She was always good for a laugh.

'You boys staying out of trouble?' she asked.

'Now where's the fun in that?' Jimmy replied.

'Don't make me call your ma, Mr Doyle. You know I'll do it.'

Jimmy held up both hands, palms out, in mock surrender. 'I'll be good. I promise.'

'And I'll be Miss America next year.' She smiled, wagged a finger at them, then reached out a hand to her daughter. Catriona took it.

'Enjoy your water ice, Catie,' Jimmy said.

'I will, Jimmy.'

Catriona continued down the street, hand in hand with her mother, floating a few feet above the sidewalk.

Ronan tapped Jimmy on the shoulder, pointed at the shopping bag at Jimmy's feet, the one he'd been carrying around all morning.

'So you got them,' Ronan said.

'As if this were in any doubt,' Jimmy replied.

He reached into the shopping bag, took out four beautiful new walkie-talkies he had artfully boosted from a Radio Shack in Center City a few days earlier.

Yet as much as they wanted to use them, there was one small hurdle. Batteries.

Batteries cost money.

F&B Variety was an old-school store on Christian Street. It had been there longer than anyone could remember, and that included the three old men who sat on lawn chairs out front, by turns dumping on the Eagles, the Phillies and the Sixers. The Flyers, having won the Stanley Cup the two previous seasons, were currently exempt.

Inside, F&B wasn't any more modern than the day it opened. The store sold the staples–lunch meats, shelf breads, condiments, laundry and dish detergents–as well as a selection of gift and tourist items, such as plastic Liberty Bells and bobble-head dolls that bore only a passing resemblance to Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski.

Toward the back of the store were a few racks of paperback books and comic books, with an aisle dedicated to knockoff toys.

On the end cap, facing away from the register, and the watchful eye of the owner, the perpetually sour-faced Old Man Flagg, were the batteries. It was summer, and that meant portable radios came off the shelves, so F&B always had a good stock.

The plan, as always:

Ronan would stand in line at the counter. When he got to the register, he would ask for change for a dollar. Kevin would stand at the rack of comic books, looking as suspicious as possible, which was not all that hard. He was the biggest of the four boys, and therefore the most menacing.

While Dave observed through the front window, Kevin would knock a few comic books from the rack, drawing Old Man Flagg's attention for just a few seconds. But a few seconds was all Jimmy needed. He was a natural.

Contraband acquired, they coolly emerged from the store, met up on the corner and walked to Catharine Street. Once there, Dave sat down on the steps of a row house and began taking the battery covers off the walkie-talkies.

They would be on the air in minutes.

Before Jimmy could get the batteries out of his pockets, a shadow appeared on the sidewalk beneath their feet.

It was Old Man Flagg. He'd seen the whole thing.

Charles Flagg was in his sixties, a prude of the first order. He made everybody's business his business, even going so far as to form a neighborhood watch group so he could stick his nose even further into the lives of people in the Pocket. Rumor had it that Old Man Flagg got manicures at a Center City salon.

'Empty your pockets,' Flagg said to Jimmy.

Jimmy took a step back. For a split second it looked as if he might make a run for it. But they had all seen the PPD sector car parked a block away. No doubt Flagg had seen it too. Jimmy had no choice. He slowly reached into his pockets, front and back, and pulled out eight nine-volt batteries, still on the card. Each of the cards clearly displayed the small orange F&B price sticker. Flagg took them from him.

'I know you,' he said. 'You're a Doyle. I know your father.'

Jimmy balled his fists. Nothing got his blood up faster than this. 'He's not my father.'

Old Man Flagg looked slapped. ''Scuse you?'

'I said, he's not my father. He adopted me.'

Flagg shrugged, looked over Dave's shoulder. He pointed down the street, in the direction of the Well, a shot and beer tavern. This was all you had to say about the geography of Tommy Doyle's life these days. Work. Bar. Sleep. Repeat.

'I know where he is right now,' Flagg said. 'Stay put.'

The next three minutes were spent in silence. Each of the boys dedicated the time to trying to concoct the most plausible story for how this had happened. The only one who had a shot was Dave–being the smartest–but even he was stumped.

Jimmy was fucked.

A minute later they saw Jimmy's stepfather emerge from the shadowed doorway of the Well.

Tommy Doyle was over six feet tall, broad-shouldered, hands like Tim McCarver's mitts. As he crossed the street, they all saw him weave slightly. He had an unfiltered Lucky in his right hand, burned almost to the nub.

When he reached the corner, they could smell the booze from five feet away.

Tommy Doyle pointed at Jimmy. 'You don't fucking move,' he said. He swept the finger across them. 'None of you.'

There had been a time when Tommy Doyle–if you caught him only one or two beers into the day–could be the nicest guy you would ever meet. Once, when Kevin's mother got her Dodge Dart stuck in a snowdrift, Tommy Doyle spent the better part of an hour digging her out with nothing more than a bent license plate he'd found in the gutter.

Then there was the time he broke his own wife's jaw with a left hook, supposedly because there was some dried mustard left on a plate he had taken out of the cupboard.

Kevin, Ronan and Dave all looked anywhere but at Tommy Doyle, or Old Man Flagg. Jimmy stared straight into his stepfather's eyes.

'What do you have to say?' Tommy asked him.

Jimmy remained silent, the words solid and immovable inside.

Tommy Doyle raised a hand. Jimmy didn't flinch. 'I asked you a fuckin' question.'

Jimmy glared straight through him, said softly: 'I'm sorry.'

Tommy Doyle's hand came down hard. It caught Jimmy on the right side of his jaw. They all saw Jimmy's eyes roll back in his head for a moment as he stumbled into the brick wall. Somehow he found his footing. He did not go down.

'Get the fuckin' marbles out of your mouth,' Tommy Doyle yelled. 'You babble again and I swear to Christ on the cross I will take you apart right here and now.'

Jimmy's eyes welled with tears, but not one dropped. He looked at Old Man Flagg, took a deep breath, and on the exhale said, loud enough for everyone in the Pocket to hear:

'I'm sorry.'

Tommy Doyle turned to Flagg, reached into his back pocket, pulled out a wallet on a chain.

'How much are they?' he asked.

Flagg looked confused. He held up the batteries. 'What, these?'


'Don't worry about it,' he said. 'I got them back.'

'How much are they?'

Flagg shrugged, glanced at the batteries. 'Four bucks for the lot.'

Tommy Doyle extracted a five, handed it to the man. 'That cover the tax?'


Tommy grabbed the batteries, tore open the packages, walked over to the curb and one by one threw the batteries into the sewer.

Red-faced, his chin flecked with spittle, he walked back to where the boys stood, flicked the empty cardboard cards into his stepson's chest.

'You're coming to work with me in the morning,' he said. 'All of you.'

Tommy Doyle worked for a company that demolished houses, but took extra work as a landscaper on summer evenings and weekends.

It was clear that Dave Carmody wanted to break rank, perhaps interjecting that he had voiced opposition to the plan to begin with, but one look from Jimmy fixed the words on his lips.

Tommy pointed at Kevin, Dave and Ronan. 'Seven o'clock sharp. Corner of Twenty-sixth and Christian. You don't show, I'm coming to your fucking houses.'

Ronan and Kevin got to the corner of 26th and Christian at 6.45, stuffed with breakfast, sugar-rushed. Ronan's father—who was a cousin to Byrne's father, Paddy—worked for the company that made Tastykake, and the boys had eaten as many powdered mini-donuts as they could. There was a pretty good chance that they were not going to get lunch.

When they turned the corner, Dave was already there, his jeans laundered and pressed. This was his mom's work, of course. Dave was going to labor on a landscaping site all day, probably kneeling in dirt, and his pants were ironed.

'Come here,' Dave said in a low voice, as if he were passing along state secrets. 'You gotta see this.'

They walked down 26th Street, across from the power plant to a vacant lot on the corner of 26th and Montrose. Dave stepped onto the lot, jumped up on an old rusted Dumpster which had been pushed up against one of the crumbling single-car garages, pulled out a pair of bricks, reached inside. A few seconds later he drew out a paper lunch bag and jumped down.

He slowly opened the bag, showed the other two boys the contents.

It was a nickel-plated .38 revolver.

'Jesus and his parents,' Ronan said.

'And all the fucking saints,' Dave replied. 'Is that yours?' Kevin asked.

Dave shook his head. 'It's Jimmy's. He showed it to me. It used to be Donny's.'

Donal Doyle, Jimmy's older stepbrother, was killed in Vietnam. Some said it was all Tommy Doyle needed to let go of the rail and fall head first into the bottle for good.

'Is it loaded?' Ronan asked.

Dave pushed the release, rolled the cylinder. Five rounds. He cautiously snapped it back in place, careful to leave the chamber opposite the firing pin empty.

'Wow,' Ronan said.

Kevin said nothing.

At that moment they heard the throaty sound of the Doyle landscaping truck's wired-together muffler coming up the street. Dave put the gun back in the bag, jumped on the Dumpster and replaced the bag in the wall.

A few seconds later, they joined a very morose-looking Jimmy Doyle in the back of his stepfather's rusting Ford F-150.

Jimmy had a bandage on his swollen left cheek.

No one asked him about it.

The day was hot, humid, dense with dark gray clouds. Mosquitoes by the millions. The landscaping job was in Lafayette Hill, at one of the big homes off Germantown Pike.

Around ten o'clock, the lady of the house, a heavyset woman with an easy laugh and Ace bandages on both knees, brought them frosty tumblers of ice-cold lemonade. None of them had ever tasted anything better.

Twice Jimmy–wielding the big mower around the side yard–came perilously close to flattening the perfectly sculpted spirea on that side of the house. Both times it looked as if his step father might run him over.

If the lemonade had been a godsend, it paled in comparison to the words they heard around 2.30 from Bobby Anselmo, who was Tommy Doyle's partner.

'Let's pack it up, guys,' he said. 'We're done for the day.'

They jumped out of the back of the truck at just after three, near the corner of Naudain and South Taney Street.

Jimmy was inconsolable. Not because he had been caught stealing and had to apologize for it, or because he had dragged his friends into the matter. That was what friends were for. It was that he had been berated and belittled by his stepfather all day, right in front of those same friends. Jimmy was getting bigger, filling out, and his friends secretly wondered when the day would come when he would brace the old man.

That day had not yet come.

But by these same measures they all knew this mood of Jimmy's, and it always preceded some challenge, some death-defying attempt at something, some larceny far greater than the one that had put him in his stepfather's sights to begin with. It was as if there was something slowly winding inside him, ready to spring at a moment's notice.

Without saying much, the four boys made their way up South Taney Street, heading to the park. Just after crossing Lombard, Ronan stopped, pointed.

'Who the fuck is that?'

They all turned to see what he was pointing at. There was someone standing at the edge of the park, behind a tree.


  • One of the New York Times Book Review's Best Crime Novels of 2016
  • "There's a lot of flawed humanity in Devil's Pocket. . . . Richard Montanari's elegiac tone takes the curse off Shutter Man, a blood-drenched thriller about a group of imperfectly domesticated boys who came from the same blighted neighborhood and grew up to become criminals and killers-and cops. . . . Pay special mind to Detective Kevin Byrne, the ethically conflicted hero of Montanari's gripping police procedurals."—Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review
  • "A bit like Memento for Philadelphia"—Keri Blakinger, New York Daily News

On Sale
Feb 9, 2016
Page Count
432 pages
Mulholland Books

Richard Montanari

About the Author

Richard Montanari is the internationally bestselling author of The Stolen Ones, The Echo Man, The Devil’s Garden, Badlands, The Rosary Girls, The Skin Gods, Merciless, and more. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

Learn more about this author