by Carsten Stroud ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 1, 1987
A gritty slice-of-life look at a New York City homicide detective on and off duty. Stroud, a Canadian journalist with police reporting experience, researched his book for over two years and spent six months on the streets with working cops. The cooperation he secured was strictly unofficial, so names have been changed and case details altered to protect his sources. Stroud has nonetheless produced a close-up of hard but not altogether hardened men plying a difficult trade under frequently impossible conditions; it rings true throughout. The nominal hero is Eddie Kennedy, a 40-ish bachelor whose lower Manhattan turf includes Alphabet City, where drug-related killings are a fact of life. The relentlessly bureaucratic, intensely political Police Department itself also plays a leading role in Stroud's narrative, and there's a scene-stealing dude of a tomcat (named Dudley) whose outlaw ways seem to suggest the thinness of the line separating good guys from perpetrators. During the win-some/lose-some week logged by Stroud, Kennedy visits the scene of a particularly brutal murder, attends the resultant autopsy (described in grisly detail), interrogates crime victims as well as suspects, huddles with ambitious superiors, makes a couple of satisfying arrests, and does endless paperwork. Along the way, he participates in the manic pursuit of a wanted youth in a crowded Harlem movie theater (where Rambo is playing) and becomes the possible target of an Internal Affairs investigation, probably instigated by a departmental informer's tip. Stroud does not portray Kennedy as a paragon, paladin, or pariah. He and most of his fellow officers emerge as very human beings coping to the best of their abilities with a job that is unforgiving of mistakes in all too many ways. En passant, the author leaves little doubt that the NYPD is a basically closed society ""with its own ethics and rules, its own code."" He finds, moreover, that the force's morale and perform. Once do not measure up to previous standards, in part because many experienced officers retired or quit in the wake of the Knapp Commission's convulsive corruption probe; in the meantime, social pressures dictated stepped-up recruitment of women and members of minority groups. Dedicated veterans like Kennedy have generally adapted, if grudgingly, to the transition, but they retain few illusions about their calling, which involves a wealth of petty annoyances as well as real physical dangers. To cite but one example, the brass, in an effort to rid the Big Apple of its title to the Western world's murder capital, have decreed that, in case of a close call between murder and suicide, detectives will give the benefit of the doubt to suicide. Not for the squeamish, Stroud's profane like-it-is record ranks with the best of Wambaugh.
Pub Date: March 1, 1987
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1987
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