The NYPD's "No Girls Allowed" sign fades in this fictional account of a real woman’s struggle for respect and success in a profession that men wanted all to themselves.
Men wanted all the manly stuff, anyway, like murders and armed robberies. The New York City Policewomen’s Bureau gave the gentler gender something to do, like arresting pickpockets, shoplifters, and hookers. But policewomen wanted more. In 1958, Marie Carrara (in real life, Marie Cirile) is a “handpicked gal,” chosen by her boss to assist male detectives in robbery stakeouts and drug buys. Note: assist only. “Girls can’t be real police, baby,” Marie’s cop husband, Sid, tells their daughter. “They stay inside, so they can’t get hurt.” Former NYPD detective Conlon's (Red on Red, 2011, etc.) novel follows the growth of a career and the disintegration of a marriage. In 1955, Marie joins in family laughter about the idea of “she-cops” who “might as well join the circus.” Then she passes the policewomen’s civil service exam and never looks back. Over the years she takes on difficult cases and realizes she isn't "a kid anymore, but a cop on a job.” In her marriage, Sid cheats while Marie would no more stray than be a Soviet spy. And he frequently beats her, which she puts up with for years. “You’re nothing without me,” he tells her, which cannot be further from the truth. They’re traditional Italian Catholics, and the word “divorce” would give their parents the vapors. So for a long time Marie publicly pretends to be in love with Sid. But she tells his lover on the phone, “Pick him up in the next hour, and I’ll give you a free toaster.” Meanwhile, day by day, she earns professional respect and eventually earns promotion to detective. There are no dramatic set pieces in the novel, yet it’s an engaging drama with cinematic potential. Society was on the cusp of major change, and the Policewomen’s Bureau would disappear in the early 1970s when people became police officers instead of policewomen and policemen.
Great fare for lovers of police stories and a dead-on accurate portrayal of the era’s attitudes toward women.