In some parts of Philadelphia, you don't die, you don't get murdered, you don't commit suicide or fall off a roof or come home and light a cigarette when the oven pilot has gone out, blowing half the block to Kingdom Come.
You get yourself dead.
It was Benny Lunch who got himself dead, "Benny Lunch" because he believed that no matter how bad things got, no matter how much people hated each other and tried to kill each other, you could get them to sit down at a meal and work out their differences. He'd get them together and somehow arrangements were made, deals were greased, details would get ironed out and if you were to ask Ben how it came down, he'd just shrug his shoulders and say in that side-of-the-mouth way he had of talking that all he did was pick up the check.
But Benny Lunch got himself dead. And now it is up to Benny Cosicki's daughter Andrea to find out who and why. Tall Andy, a demon with a basketball, just out of the University of Pennsylvania and aiming for a membership in the Newspaper Guild. Andy is going to find her father's killer -- because for sure he was killed; it was no accident. Benny Lunch knew the fire-ruined old neighborhood bar well enough to keep from falling through the second-story floor. Benny had met and married Andy's mother there; the bar had Benny's history in its blackened beams.
So here is Andy, just hired by the Philadelphia Press to take over the Mr. Action column, which hasn't been in action for several months, citizen complaints piling up all the while. Andy quickly discovers that the quiet man next to her, "Shep" Ladderback, whose desk is always clean, has a cabinet full of files holding everything about everybody. He's also got a mind stuffed with memory and brains that work quietly and flawlessly, and she is more than lucky that he's taken it on himself to be her guide.
Kent's years as a newspaperman in Philadelphia has been the perfect training for a book like Street Money. He knows the delicious details of the way politics works at the local level. He is as savvy about the scam artists fattening on the pretensions of the new suburban homeowners as he is about the former drug dealer who preaches hell-and-damnation in a deserted neighborhood bank. He takes us behind the scenes in a big-city newspaper. You could almost think of him as the live model for the all-knowing Ladderback.
Between the assertive, independent, but still-learning Andy and the reclusive and somehow larger than life Ladderback, all sorts of wrongdoing and ill will is uncovered. It almost seems that with Benny Lunch's death, the things he was able to bury with his lunches, and thought were gone forever, are now surfacing to challenge his daughter. But having met Andy, we root for her as she accepts the challenge.