Repercussions from the deaths of two black students at a Bronx junior high form Rosenberg's (Contract on Cherty Street, 1975; The Spivey Assignment, 1979) deft and compelling, if somewhat contrived, journey through the rocky racial/political geography of New York City. Fast approaching burnout at crime- and poverty-ridden LaGuardia Junior High, once-idealistic English teacher Steven Hilyer intervenes when sensitive but disturbed student Timothy Warren is discovered holding a 13-year-old innocent, Ophelia James, hostage in the gym. N.Y.P.D. detectives arrive, and, though Ophelia is already dead, good cop and devoted family man Jim Franks shoots Timothy. The Mayor's fixer convinces black demagogue/community-board chairman Artemis Reach not to grandstand the issue, but beautiful, ambitious, up-and-coming board member L.D. Woods stages a press conference for Ophelia's mother, who asks for answers. Citywide controversy ensues. Hilyer investigates with the help of beautiful, street-wise colleague and new lover Rita Torres, his path dogged by supercompetent Chief of Detectives Terranova. When another of Hilyer's students is found dead, Terranova suspects a drug ring, with Hilyer involved. Anguished (eventually suicidal) Franks, now suspended, contacts Hilyer; together they read Timothy's poems looking for clues, and find them. (Quixotic kids were opposing crack dealers; discovered, Ophelia was killed and Timothy set up.) When cops occupy LaGuardia, student unrest leads to a major riot, amidst which Hilyer, pursued by cops and bad guys, exposes Reach as crack kingpin, and Torres (along with other teachers) as his accessory. At times a touch overwrought, but safely this side of melodrama: a screen-ready combination of thriller and procedural.
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