A book where Wolfe actually travels willingly outside New York (as willingly as all that complaining would suggest). This dislocation brings a sense of discomfort to the book, and a level of urgency when it appears that his return home might be delayed. In addition the story involves characters who he respects for their superior skills (although not necessarily for anything else), and who he doesn't have a great deal of power over. It makes for an unusual Wolfe story.Although not a major theme, this is a book which brings the reader squarely against 1930s attitudes towards race, as a number of the characters are African American. There's a mildly racist bent to narrator Archie's views, though his racism seems more directed toward Italians than any other group. Some of the book's local authorities are either aggressively or habitually racist. Wolfe himself is far more sexist than racist, and maintains both his pointed courtesy and habitual low expectations of just about every man who crosses his path. Low expectations aside, he does judge people by their individual actions, and in doing so makes the behaviour of the locals all the more jarring.