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The episodic adventures of a noble young vice cop in corrupt, sleazy Atlantic City: a lively but only half-satisfying debut for New Jersey journalist Kent. Louis Monroe--5'2"" but wiry, tough, and well-trained in hand-to-hand combat--begins his police career with high ideals, having been deeply shocked by his father's imprisonment for taking kickbacks (as a minor N.J. bureaucrat). As a rookie, he's content to patrol the Boardwalk, smile at tourists, befriend the homeless. Then, however, Monroe successfully neutralizes a drunk with dynamite, running amok at the Alcazar Casino Hotel, and finds himself promoted to the vice-squad. Tracking down drug-dealers leads to one sort of danger--including a near-fatal fire in a creepy narcotics warehouse. But there's even more peril from Monroe's fellow cops: the Division of Gaming Enforcement (secretly controlled by casino interests) roughs our hero up at regular intervals when he refuses to play along; the foul Reuben Claymore, a cop who enjoys raping prostitutes and beating up bums, tutus really ugly when Monroe starts trying to get this psychosadist put away. Furthermore, Monroe falls in love with pregnant ex-prostitute Ellie--who needs protection from sleek lawyer/power-broker George Spear (who fathered the baby) and from Spear's sexy wife Toni (the city's glitziest brothel-keeper). Monroe's various exploits involve diverting sequences: going incognito as a blackjack dealer and a bum; using a borrowed limo to arrest 24 hookers in one night; taking all kinds of physical and verbal abuse. But first-novelist Kent doesn't quite manage to give these vignettes overall momentum or steady suspense: the windup--Monroe defeats all the villains--is both predictable and facile. More important, perhaps, the altruistic cop-avenger has an initial appeal that soon wears thin. Still: serviceable, visceral entertainment for fans of nasty action, raunchy dialogue, and gritty vice-squad lore.

Pub Date: Nov. 29th, 1988
Publisher: Arbor House/Morrow