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The Boy in the Box by Lee J. Nelson


Rating: (Read only if your interest is strong)


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Welcome Back Kafka

Lee J. Nelson’s new book, The Boy in the Box, presents schemes and schemers in New York City with a strangeness and alienation reminiscent of Franz Kafka. If that’s your cup of tea, then The Boy in the Box is the book you’ve been waiting for. I don’t enjoy Kafka, and found this book dreary and dreadful.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 2 (pp. 30-31):

In the lobby, as he waited by the elevator, a movement at the end of the hall caught his attention. The janitor was standing on the stairs, on the steps halfway down to the basement. With just his upper body visible through the balusters, he resembled a prisoner or an ape in the zoo and was waving at Smith, not making a sound. When the elevator arrived and Smith reached for the door, the janitor's urging grew more frantic.

Smith hesitated. Had the suspect been dangerous, the police probably would not have released him so quickly. He decided to hear what the man had to say before passing judgment.

As he came closer, the janitor headed farther down the stairs toward the poorly lit and deserted basement corridor.

Smith stayed on the landing, growing nervous. "I'm not going down there. If you want to tell me something, you're going to have to tell me here."

Grasping that Smith would not descend with him, the gargoyle conceded and came up a few steps closer to Smith but was still hidden from anyone entering the lobby.


"What's your name?" Smith asked.


Smith lowered his voice and spoke slowly and clearly. 'My name is Smith. What is your name? Is it Dezmun?"


"Kogat," came the answer.





'Kogat Dezmun?"


The janitor nodded. "I know you," he said.

"That's not possible."

"I know you," he repeated, and his hands started up as if to reach and touch, then dropped to his sides. Smith was alarmed but did not retreat.

What proceeded from Kogat Dezmun, accompanied by apprehensive peeks through the balusters and guided by the ever useful hand gestures, was another turbulent account tangled in a thicket of incomprehensible language. Smith recognized a now familiar description of the boy in the box, who was in some way connected to the one true beggar. Dezmun mentioned Chinatown again, and he repeated pressingly that only Smith could succeed, but at what was unclear; finding the boy. Smith assumed. As sordid and as unintelligible as the man's tale was his manner: leering while describing the most horrible events; staring at Smith without blinking, adjusting his glasses to stare more intrusively; babbling on with the misplaced confidence that Smith was following every word.

Smith cut short the exposition. "If you know anything about a missing boy, you must notify the police."

"No," Dezmun pleaded anxiously.

"Why did the police take you into custody last night?"

"No police," Dezmun insisted. His smile was gone. "No police." He pressed his index finger to his lips.


"Did they ask you about the missing boy?"

He shook his head. "I know noting."

Strange people doing strange things do hand out in New York apartments. The Boy in the Box reveals some of them. Unless you’re up for a downer, take a pass.

Steve Hopkins, March 25, 2003


ã 2003 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the April 2003 issue of Executive Times

URL for this review: Boy in the Box.htm


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