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Reardon's clumsy but vigorous first novel, The Sweet Life of Jimmy Riley (1980), chronicled the rise and fall of a crooked New York City vice cop. So does his second, which proves an equally chunky mixture of punchy prose and stilted dialogue, made digestible mostly through ex-cop Reardon's keen savvy about the shady side of law enforcement. Like Jimmy Riley, Tommy Sloane lusts for the buck, not justice. Joining ""the Job"" in the early 1950's, Tommy, whose greed Reardon depicts with relish, quickly establishes himself as a cop on the fast if crooked track: smart, tough, and murderous (he guns down three defenseless thieves in one of several stinging scenes of violence). Through strings pulled by his old Mob-connected pal, Vinny, Tommy gets assigned to the Borough West vice squad, the most lucrative post in town. Within a few years, he's the Mob's best pal, rolling in booty that includes a swank home, a BMW, a packed safety-deposit box, and a slew of affairs with sleek N.Y. ladies as he cons not only the public but also his adoring wife: a heady whirl of sin made positively tantalizing by Reardon's energetic narration. But like the storytellers of yore, Reardon clearly feels the need for a moral: the kicker for Tommy comes from the real-life Knapp Commission, which, deciding that he would make the perfect fink, confronts him with an irresistible offer: jail or ratting. ""Better them than me,"" thinks Tommy, who testifies in exchange for immunity. But the deal doesn't include murder, and when Tommy is soon charged for a killing he ironically didn't commit, his old pal Vinnie, who now considers Tommy ""a scumbag,"" refuses to donate his very real alibi. So it's off to the slammer, where in a too-pat ending Tommy is bumped off by a Mob still fearful of what he knows. Although Reardon's mind-boggling twisted cop world rings true, his slap-happy writing and the monotone intensity of Tommy's greed eventually prove irritating and predictable. Passable fare for hardcore and hard-up cop fans; others will look forward to the next Wambaugh.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Freundlich--dist. by Kampmann (9 East 40th St., New York, NY 10016)