One Last Improvisation by Dan Maguire

One Last Improvisation

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In this debut novel, a cop must face his painful past and solve a pressing, present-day mystery.

Ryan O’Reilly cuts a familiar figure in the mystery genre: He’s a smart, dirty (but not too dirty) middle-aged cop, incapable of sustaining relationships with women or with his aging father. The author leads readers through a series of flashbacks, painting a portrait of a broken man, psychologically damaged by his unhappy childhood. Ryan’s parents were equally neglectful; both were alcoholics, and his father made a habit of taking Ryan to bars as a child before he ultimately abandoned his family. These sections compellingly depict young Ryan’s troubles, as he never has enough food, or even enough money to do a load of laundry; however, the child’s dialogue sometimes comes off as unrealistic. As a teenager, Ryan falls in with an older boy and starts dealing drugs—a habit he has difficulty breaking, despite the protests of his straitlaced girlfriend, Denise. Later, as a solitary cop, Ryan becomes embroiled in a police-brutality scandal while trying to investigate the proliferation of drugs in his community. The novel is well-paced and sometimes engaging, but Maguire’s depiction of women feels forced, as does his treatment of race relations. When Ryan is accused of racism, for example, the reader is apparently meant to be horrified that anybody would suggest such a thing. Unlike Tana French’s Rob Ryan or even Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Ryan isn’t brilliant or psychologically complex enough to make him unique or particularly sympathetic. The novel asks readers to see past Ryan’s ugliness to the good person inside; unfortunately, Ryan never seems that good in the first place.

A competent but sometimes frustrating police thriller.

Pub Date: April 29th, 2013
ISBN: 9781482068511
Page count: 382pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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