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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best seller

From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s.

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

To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent 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 all the time. 

Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn't ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn't ask questions, either. 

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. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes. 

Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see 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's ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City 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. 

But mostly, it's a joy to listen to, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.

©2021 Colson Whitehead (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"A rich, wild book that could pass for genre fiction. It’s much more, but the entertainment value alone should ensure it the same kind of popular success that greeted his last two novels, The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys." (Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"Colson Whitehead has a couple of Pulitzers under his belt, along with several other awards celebrating his outstanding novels. Harlem Shuffle is a suspenseful crime thriller that's sure to add to the tally - it's a fabulous novel you must read." (NPR.org)

"A warm, involving novel." (The Wall Street Journal)

What listeners say about Harlem Shuffle

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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What a rare pleasure

This was my introduction to Colin Whitehead. As has been widely acknowledged he is a magnificent writer. The (seemingly) effortless flow of his gorgeous words, the sly/wry hunor embedded throughout, the way his characters, places and situations live so vividly in the mind of the listener all make this a rich and heady experience.

Equal praise for Dion Graham’s narration. His contributions were deeply thoughtful and completely apt - the man committed mind, body and soul to giving voice to the brilliant text. I have never heard anyone do so much with the words “he said”, and don’t expect I ever will again. I’m serious - listen and you’ll get it.

I thank Whitehead and Graham for the gift of this experience.

18 people found this helpful

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Perfection

Smart , saavy an all around great read. No one should be disappointed. Stick with this.

8 people found this helpful

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Best Read/Listen on Audible

Cold on Whitehead’s prose was meant to be read - by Dion Graham. Either on the page or to the ear it is terrific writing.
Funny, insightful, tragic; everything contemporary writing is all about or should be.

7 people found this helpful

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Enthralling

Fascinating story about good and evil in all people. Graphic character depictions. New York City in all its mid-century glory.

7 people found this helpful

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Easy Listening

The protagonist was interesting enough you wanted to live this journey with him. He was a brother doing what he thought was the best he could. I loved his heart and
street smarts. Carney is a serial keeper, like Easy Rawlings.
Coulson you may be-my new ‘Walter Mosley’.

6 people found this helpful

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Gripping!

I enjoyed the writing, plot and narration, which pulled me me right in the story!

4 people found this helpful

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About half a novel.

Because of my deep respect for Whitehead, and because I loved Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, I hung on and finished this book. But man, there were times when I was thinking about the laundry while it was playing. Nothing stuck. I was at least halfway through before I started to care about what happened. And even then, Whitehead's annoying habit of interrupting the action right before it climaxed to change the subject - or skip the main action altogether - was just plain grating. He'd interrupt a crime being committed to talk about furniture, or fast forward to the future. Was the writing good? Yes, of course. Whitehead can write his behind off. Did he paint a compelling picture of mid-century Harlem? Yes. But for a novel with three separate criminal capers, it kept feeling like nothing was happening. And the character development just wasn't there. Carney, his main character, should have been far more interesting to the reader (an amoral, only somewhat bent, striving, half-legit, half-hood - what's not to intrigue?) than he actually was. He was more of a characature. Sorry, Colson, this one's going back.

3 people found this helpful

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Entertaining

The story "opened my eyes" to the Harlem Underworld.

The narrator did a fantastic job of portraying multiple characters.

3 people found this helpful

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Harlem Shuffle

This is a terrific story, well recorded, and rivaled “Nickel Boys”. Cannot wait for CW’s next novel!

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great story

Loved the story. eye. opening. narration great. will be looking for this author. right away

3 people found this helpful