This boisterous cop drama set in Boston’s troubled Tremont neighborhood offers more than the usual mix of corruption, organized crime and paranoiac plot twists.
A prostitute lies dead in a cheap motel in a bad part of town. Her suspected killer—a city policeman—is hauled away amid the glare of the local press. It all looks clear enough for everyone except young, streetwise Officer Ben Grasso (and perhaps Dennis Lehane fans), who begins his own covert investigation into the increasingly convoluted situation. He knows his childhood buddy Andy McGill is being framed for the shooting, but by whom? And why? Grasso’s knockout new partner—nightstick-wielding ex-Israeli intelligence agent Dina Greenbaum—joins in the search for the real story behind the young working girl’s murder, which leads them deep into a fairly predictable but entertaining tangle of organized crime and police corruption. Secret alliances, rogue bikers and a shadowy figure named Frank Ferrante complicate the pursuit of truth, as does a problematic romance that threatens to bubble up between Officers Grasso and Greenbaum. Hidden agendas are the order of the day, along with baseball, shootouts, familial responsibility and explosions. With these elements firmly in hand, the author turns out a more-than-competent thriller sure to please genre aficionados who like their crime fiction fast-paced, but not too broody or cerebral. Collins’ heroes and villains are comfortably life-sized, and his flair for interesting details of time and place keep the prose realistic but not dull. What helps elevate Collins’ debut from similar fare are his intriguing (but not belabored) digressions into his protagonists’ compelling back stories: Grasso’s ongoing balancing act between idealism and pragmatism rings true, without veering needlessly into chest-thumping machismo or blue-collar bathos, while Greenbaum’s mysterious doings with the Mossad are taut enough to be a self-contained tale. Readers rooting for further adventures from the duo will welcome the novel’s tidy, open-ended finale, which suggests the beginning of a potentially popular series.
An excellent police thriller from a new talent.