Hannah Tucker
May 19, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

It’s difficult deciding which is more nightmarish — Charlie Rankin’s past as an abused kid or his present as an ex-con who owes his jailbird lover one last favor. Rankin himself can’t separate his identity as a hardened criminal from that of a terrified victim, and his ex-porn-star girlfriend is the only one who doesn’t think he’s crazy. In ”the flickering recesses of a hallucinating brain,” Rankin sees himself as a child, imagining ”Little Charlie’s face, corpse-white, dead as a shed fingernail” in the midst of committing a savage crime. A swiftly paced thriller about a hit gone wrong, Matthew F. Jones’ Boot Tracks is also a brooding character study of a man who’s morally compromised — though not entirely soulless.

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