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Harlem Shuffle cover art

Harlem Shuffle

By: Colson Whitehead
Narrated by: Dion Graham
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Summary

From the author of The Underground Railroad (now a major Amazon Prime TV show)

'Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked....'

To his customers and neighbours on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a life for himself and his family. He and his wife, Elizabeth, are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver's Row don't approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it's still home.

Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger and bigger all the time.

See, cash is tight, especially with all those instalment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace at the furniture store, Ray doesn't see the need to ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweller downtown who also doesn't ask questions.

Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa—the 'Waldorf of Harlem'—and volunteers Ray's services as the fence. The heist doesn't go as planned; they rarely do, after all. Now Ray has to cater to a new clientele, one made up of shady cops on the take, vicious minions of the local crime lord and numerous other Harlem lowlifes.

Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he starts to see the truth about who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?

Harlem Shuffle is driven by an ingeniously intricate plot that plays out in a beautifully recreated Harlem of the early 1960s. It's a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.

©2021 Colson Whitehead (P)2021 Hachette Audio UK

What listeners say about Harlem Shuffle

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New York hustle

My least favourite Whiteread novel. Not really a gangsta fan. Gritty portrayal of NY life

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Good listen

Really enjoyed this listen. Not gripping to be honest but a good story and an excellent performance.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Meandering but enjoyable

Meandering a little, without a definitive story running through, just years in the life of Carney, but I did preserve and enjoyed it. Narrator was good

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Good listen

I Thoroughly enjoyed this story, loved the reading of it too. Very evocative and atmospheric

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Great performance

The performance is superb and brings the dizzying world of Harlem to life. Highly recommend this as it is extremely immersive and the hours slipped effortlessly by.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Narrator is excellent

Good, enjoyable story about small time crooks in Harlem. Engaging, and entertaining, well presented.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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An American Classic

really enjoyed Dion Graham's rich narration of this colourful slice of post war New York. Populated by a variety of low lifes, snobbish inlaws, Ray Carney tries to make a mostly decent living for his family...until Cousin Freddy volunteers him for a job. Easy to imagine as a Blaxploitation style film

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Interesting and engaging throughout.

I enjoyed the story and the narration made the experience even more of a pleasure.

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  • Overall
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Brilliant story, excellently written and performed

This is one of those occasions when the performance really adds something that reading the book on its might not have had. Having said that, this is a brilliant story, excellently written and performed.

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Meandering

Never quite going anywhere. Personally I found the unannounced flashbacks/forwards made it hard to keep track of things at least in this audiobook format. It was fine though.

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