UNDER GROUND by Michael Daly


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 A Big Apple transit cop's unsuspected taste for forbidden fruits brings him grief and self-awareness: an impressive first novel from New York Daily News columnist Daly. When plainclothes policeman Jack Swann (whose usual beat is the subway system) survives a Times Square shooting, he undergoes a gradual sea change. Cleared of culpability in the death of a black teenager who tried to grab his weapon, Swann begins to take a different view of himself and life. Coming into the light, as it were, the so-called cave cop realizes how little he has in common with coupon-clipping wife Ellen (who unself-consciously refers to herself as a redeemer). By stages, Swann loses weight and takes a second mortgage on his row house in Queens to get money for a more stylish wardrobe and for off-duty jaunts to Manhattan's fashionable watering holes; he even manages a two-day fling at the Plaza with Danica Neary, a lusty blond who was the unattainable object of his high-school fantasies. Swann also becomes more venturesome on the job, using himself and his borrowed bankroll as bait to bust muggers who prey on subway riders. Meanwhile, the working-class hero's behavior soon attracts the attention of superiors, who put the Internal Affairs Division on his tail. IAD operatives report Swann's nocturnal excursions to Ellen, who throws him out of the family home he's hocked. Eventually, the dark side (as it's called in cop talk) charges the officer with having skimmed money from a Harlem drug dealer he and his partner, hip black rookie Simone Colman, arrested in the course of their duties. Swann's conflicts with his department and himself are resolved, albeit with some ambiguity, in a climactic hearing that brings all the players together in a dingy municipal courtroom. A vivid and satisfying slice-of-life tale from an astute observer: Daly's grasp of the urban milieu of ethnic whites could make him heir to Jimmy Breslin's mantle.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-316-21709-3
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1995


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