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Framed for corruption in 1961, Delaware cop Lou Razzi returns 15 years later to clear his name, pursue a few felons, and uncover a big conspiracy--in a disjointed, episodic first novel that mixes some always-intriguing criminal justice issues (the Miranda rules, etc.) with routinely doltish melodrama. Thanks to the confession of a veteran low-life, it has now been revealed that Razzi was indeed framed--for mysterious reasons--by Wilmington's Deputy Police Chief, now deceased. So Razzi, after a few years in jail and a decade in Brazil, comes home to collect his pension--but mostly to find out why he was set up, and if (as he suspects) foul cop Elmo Covaletzki, now Police Chief, was also in on the frame. Razzi soon gets distracted, however. First there's a teen psycho's kinky assaults on little boys; then there's the fatal shooting of Razzi's old cop-pal Shy Whitney by an unidentified black youth; and in both investigations zealous Razzi runs afoul of 1970's police-procedure constrictions (e.g., ""probable cause""), getting caustic advice and help from Assistant D.A. Honey Gold, his new love interest. Meanwhile, too, Razzi becomes increasingly troubled by the behavior of his estranged 15-year-old daughter--who seems obsessive in her attachment to her weird stepfather Prof. Carlton Cruset, gun-lover and fanatical law-and-order advocate. And only after a few more killings and substantial harassment (from Chief Covaletzki above all) does Razzi learn all the unsurprising yet far-fetched secrets--in a sluggish series of showdowns and confessions. Debut novelist Brandt, a trial lawyer and former Chief Deputy Attorney General for Delaware, does best with the legal aspects of police investigation, and fairly well--in faint imitation of Wambaugh, Daley, Uhnak et al.--on the cop camaraderie. Elsewhere, however, the plotting is hokily contrived, heavy on coincidence and amateurish exposition (via awkward dialogue). Perhaps even more important, Razzi is a far-from-irresistible hero, often implausibly motivated and occasionally obnoxious. So the result is a just-passable suspense mishmash, unsure whether it wants to be a grittily authentic police-blotter or a hyper conspiracy-thriller.

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 1987
Publisher: St. Martin's