FATAL COMMAND by Joseph D. McNamara


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Another slow, thin, tough-talking yet oddly bland police-procedural featuring Sgt. Fraleigh (The First Directive, 1984)--who now becomes Chief of Detectives for a brand-new police department in the brand-new Silicon Valley community called Silicon City. Despite the enthusiasm of Police Chief Louis Robinson (his old boss, transplanted), Fraleigh has his doubts about Silicon City--which has a slick, cocainesnorting mayor (heir to a computer-biz fortune) with a promiscuous wife. Those doubts increase when, following up an anonymous tip, Fraleigh and his sidekicks (handsome Paul, gorilla-ish Block) observe a secret meeting between a police captain and a mobster. Worse yet, Fraleigh then trails the mobster to a rendezvous with a mayoral aide at a for-ladies-only strip joint--where a shoot-out ensues: the mayor's aide is killed; Fraleigh's new love-interest is seriously wounded. Pretty obviously, then, there's corruption afoot--maybe drug deals, maybe industrial espionage--in Silicon City. To get hard evidence, Fraleigh arranges for some undercover sleuthing at the mayor's computer company; he liaisons with the FBI, which hints at international ramifications. But the investigation is complicated by the fact that Chief Robinson himself seems to have been compromised. And, before the climactic bloodbath (in which the straying Chief redeems himself), narrator Fraleigh has to contend with an old psycho-enemy, a new feminist girlfriend, and the Chief's lustful estranged wife. McNamara reaches here for Wambaugh-like portraiture and texture, but the results are earnest and flat, with none of Wambaugh's dark-humored vibrancy. So, with an even flimsier plot than The First Directive, this quickly becomes a routine, repetitious cop-vs.-corruption tale, despite the moody, often verbose characterization.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1987
Publisher: Arbor House