Zebulon Finch, known as "the Black Hand," is a seventeen-year-old gangster operating on the streets of 19th-century Chicago, dealing death and visiting whorehouses. His lifestyle earns him a bullet in the back of the head and a one-way trip to the bottom of Lake Michigan. Only Finch does not die. His ability to move, think, and speak stays, but his body is slowly decomposing. Think Warm Bodies, but with not as nice a protagonist. With no clue why this has happened, Finch sets off on a long journey in search of... what? Love? Atonement?
Through the rotting eyes of his leading man, Kraus leads us through some of the most turbulent eras in American history, from the battlefields of World War I, to moonshine distilleries in Georgia, to the golden age of Hollywood. Much time passes, and Zebulon grows no closer to understanding his predicament, but he plays an active role in each conflict, using his inability to die to his advantage.
Despite its length, The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch never drags as the different time periods constantly propel the narrative forward, keeping the debonair turn-of-the-century murderer-turned-victim, Zebulon Finch, spellbinding.