It's a measure of Paulsen's gut level effectiveness that one really does come to feel some affection for Duda, a corrupt cop who extorts graft from kids in the form of illegally taken fish, who spends most of his night shifts shooting rabbits and visiting his mistress, and who kills two unresisting bank robbers in cold blood. The narrator, a nameless, kid virtually abandoned by his drunken parents, loves Duda for saving him from a maniacal foster father who tries to beat the sin out of him with a chain. . . and later for talking him out of marrying a fourteen-year-old classmate pregnant by another guy. Mostly, however, this kid has no one else to attach himself to, and the relationship that's meant to reveal a loving human being hidden behind a brutalized exterior is devalued because it's drawn solely in terms of the boy's weakness. By flirting with moral ambivalence to a degree uncommon at this level, Paulsen does shake up the reader's emotions. Ultimately Duda's brand of toughness is simply bathetic, but readers who can take the explicit violence and are mature enough not to mistake clever writing for profundity will want to make that judgment on their own.