VICTIMS by Dorothy Uhnak
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New York City policewoman vs. corrupt journalism and corrupt politicians--in a sporadically gripping, agreeably unpredictable, yet curiously half-satisfying thriller from the author of The Investigation and False Witness. Anna Grace, a young married nurse, is knifed to death just outside her mother's apartment-house in middle-class Forest Hills: none of the neighbors comes to the screaming woman's aid; no one even calls 911 as Anna bleeds to death. At first, then, this novel seems to be a fictional exploration of the famous, real-life Kitty Genovese case--focusing on Mike Stein, 50, a columnist in the Breslin/Hammill mode who starts interviewing all those silent neighbors, exposing their cowardice, selfishness, and prejudice. (Everyone thought the dying woman was ""the Spanish girl,"" student Maria Vidales.) But NYPD detective Miranda Torres--gorgeous, Hispanic, black, fiercely bright--isn't much interested in the silent-neighbor issue, even though she helps Stein in his research (and sleeps with him). Instead, Miranda doggedly pursues two thorny issues. First: did Anna Grace really bleed to death--or die from an aneurysm? (The answer makes a big journalistic difference to unethical muckraker Mike.) Second: was Anna killed by mistake, instead of the intended victim--Maria Vidales? So it seems: Maria and her stewardess-sister (now missing, soon found dead) can be linked to a huge cocaine-smuggling operation. At every turn, however, Miranda's shrewd findings are covered up by higher-ups--because Mike Stein has blackmail power over the NYPD, because the cocaine-mastermind has friends in Washington, D.C., because everyone will find it more convenient if the Anna Grace murder is attributed to a serial killer called ""the Beast of Queens."" Still, Miranda won't admit to ""her corruption by silence"". . .and is very nearly killed while trying (in vain) to protect Maria and expose the Truth. Uhnak never quite finds the right pace or focus for the rich assortment of issues and subplots here: the effect is choppy instead of steadily involving. And superwoman Miranda, despite a few humanizing touches in her personal background, is a rather flat and unconvincing heroine. But the NYC places and people are sketched in with sharp authenticity; a few of the plot-twists are genuinely arresting; and Uhnak's no-nonsense delivery helps to make this a sturdy and provocative--if ultimately a bit disappointing--policework thriller.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1985
Publisher: Simon & Schuster