From the back of the book:
Ex-convict Paul Little has just walked out on the only woman who has ever loved him to return to a life of crime in Philadelphia. But when Paul gets involved with a petty thug who is later murdered, he finds himself pinned between the volatile gangster accused of the crime and the straight-laced detective who put Paul away years ago. Realizing the city may be the death of him, Paul looks to escape to North Carolina and live alone on a farm left to him by his recently deceased grandfather. Can Paul survive long enough to make it to the succor of the farm? Will he inevitably return to a life behind bars? Or is it his fate to die a victim in Philadelphia? The Science of Paul is a stunning tale of redemption and self-exploration, as one man navigates the precariousness of the streets and the inner workings of his mind.
Paul Little is an ex-con with a destructive personality. Looking for loopholes in life to dodge normalcy he reverts to a life on the mean Philadelphia streets, breaking off a relationship with his level-headed girlfriend, and as soon as his parole period ends, breaks off all ties to the straight and narrow. Why? Well, this really isn't explained apart from the broad sweeping 'call of the streets'.
This frustrated me. Paul didn't have a gang or criminal crew to return to. There was no loyalty to any criminal faction or particular affinity to underworld dealings (apart from a loose connection with a barbershop front) - so why did Paul revert to the dangerous and blood soaked life on the streets of Philadelphia? After reading THE SCIENCE OF PAUL, I still don't know the answer. That's not to say I didn't have a good time reading the book.
Paul post Tammy (the ex-girlfriend) makes for entertaining reading. He manages to get involved in a murder, acts as a stand-over man, and gets in deep trouble with the law. All those aspects were great. Plus, he's a character with a conscious - of sorts - remember, the criminal life crept back into his being so he was never going to be irredeemable, which suits me fine.
Author Aaron Philip Clark knows how to write. THE SCIENCE OF PAUL is downright brutal at times, balanced with a poetic narrative that screams noir. Yet, the major fault, in my opinion, is the rationale. I need to know why Paul sought out the life he did rather than settling for a generic catch phrase.
The SCIENCE OF PAUL is good but it could have been great.