CRIME SONG by David Swinson


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Good cops and bad cops, good burglars and bad burglars, murder and mayhem in Washington, D.C.

Author Swinson is himself a retired detective, and familiarity with policing and crime, and an eye for detail, provides a solid framework for the story as Frank Marr, a retired D.C. narcotics detective–turned–private eye, makes a second appearance (The Second Girl, 2016, etc.) in this cocaine-fueled caper. Marr is a cokehead who feeds his habit partly through his assignments, shaking down dealers or burgling the homes of those he has under surveillance. As the book opens, he's turned a sweet trick: he can confirm to his Aunt Linda that her college-student son, Jeffrey, is indeed dealing dope and has a plan to steal the dope while Jeffrey is in class. But while Marr is breaking into Jeffrey’s apartment, Jeffrey is burgling Marr’s place and is killed in the process. Of course Marr must conceal the real facts from his old friends on the force, complicating their investigations. Sleuthing on his own, Marr identifies one burglar and the driver of the cab that is used to carry the stolen items to be fenced. He pressures these two, the details begin to emerge, and the trail leads to a dirty cop and an old grudge. All this while Marr continues to feed his habit and at every turn has to face the question of how his addiction will be maintained. Though he claims early in the book that his relationship with lawyer Leslie Costello matters most to him (“Last thing I want to do is fuck it up with her. You don’t get that many chances in life”), in fact she figures only slightly in the narrative, and by the end, the relationship is in shambles. This is consistent with the real agenda of addiction; Marr cares more about blow than anything else and illustrates this in other situations. But it is just that consistency that makes the ending so unsatisfying. Though Marr manages to arrange some measure of justice for some of the characters, the body count is high; he never confronts the destruction of his relationship with Leslie; and he seems to think he can ride off into a drug-free sunset, with all accounts squared.

A gritty thriller with convincing details, but the feel-good conclusion undermines the effort.

Pub Date: May 2nd, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-316-26421-1
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2017


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