Under a pseudonym, the author of Jonah Man (2012) delivers a dark tale of a Brooklyn undercover cop who becomes a homicide detective in the Southwest.
In 2002 New Mexico, Wes Raney and Sheriff Bay investigate a grisly triple murder on the Wilkins ranch. That’s a long way from Brooklyn, which Raney left under duress 18 years earlier. Roughly alternating chapters show how his troubled career ended in New York and how he investigates the current murders. In 1984 Brooklyn, he’s a narcotics detective and a talented amateur boxer nicknamed Deadly Dixon, working with DA Stone, who wants to completely dismantle a drug organization. Raney gets so deeply into his undercover role that he gets hooked on cocaine and is drawn far enough into the organization’s violence that it could land him in prison. One of his targets observes, “You’d bash [a woman’s] head in yourself if I gave you a dimebag to do it.” But Raney’s fiancee, Sophia Ferguson, is the daughter of a retired police captain who gives Raney a way out of trouble: move to New Mexico and forever cut ties with Sophia and the child she’s expecting. Forbidden to ever see his daughter and “exiled from the lives and the work he valued most,” he pursues the Wilkins murders and continues to struggle with his addiction. Sometimes he flushes illicit drugs to avoid temptation, and sometimes he holds back dimebags for himself. Raney can’t shake his slough of despond. Sheriff Bay tells him, “On a good day I look at you and I don’t see a shred of happiness.” The story isn’t so much about solving the murders, though that gets taken care of. It’s about Raney’s personal journey—how he wants to be good but struggles against his weaknesses and might fail. Readers may be conflicted as to whether to like him—he’s no hero—but they’ll feel the man’s pain.
Edgy and satisfying. A sequel would be most welcome.