South East London’s DS Brant, who could teach Edinburgh’s John Rebus a thing or two about insubordination, is less than thrilled when Porter Nash leapfrogs to acting inspector and is made temporary head of the cop-killer inquiry while Chief Inspector Roberts wrestles with bereavement. Equally troublesome, Brant’s protégée, WPC Falls, is flirting with alcoholism, slipping into dug addiction, and befriending a loathsome young Nazi skinhead, while Brant’s nemesis, shirt-ad handsome PC McDonald, has become the department’s fair-haired boy despite bollixing every case he’s assigned to. And the turmoil is about to escalate because the cop killer, craving media attention, contacts Harold Dunphy, the chief crime correspondent of The Tabloid, and offers him an exclusive on his deeds—for a price. As cops fall to the deadly touch of the self-dubbed Blitz, Brant and Nash zero in on his identity via a few helpful tidbits from a snitch, but not quite soon enough. The Blitz aims at Falls, misses her but gets the skinhead, and sets in motion a vigilante free-for-all that culminates in a dour, anti-legal retribution.
Bruen’s staccato style (The Guards, Jan. 2003, etc.) is all his own, but it’s clear he’s angling for a place among the noir brethren, specifically at the right hand of James M. Cain.